A germ-zapping robot isn’t
replacing hospital housekeeping; it steps in as a second layer of protection to
make sure the job is done.
NCH Healthcare System debuted
the robot system that destroys infection-causing pathogens which can
be devastating to patients, along with driving up costs to hospitals for
addressing hospital-acquired infections.
It is the first hospital in the
region to use the robots, which cost more than $100,000 a piece.
Through donors, NCH
has purchased three LightStrike robots from Xenex Disinfection Services, a
Texas company that says its robots can kill the scariest pathogens, such
as Ebola and anthrax, and the more common germs like MRSA, norovirus, C. diff
and the flu.
A Xenex LightStrike Germ-Zapping robot uses pulsed xenon ultraviolet light to disinfect a room at NCH Downtown Baker Hospital in Naples on Tuesday, February 4, 2020. NCH now has three of the robots, which help to decreasee infection rates by disinfecting rooms after the rooms are manually cleaned. (Photo: Alex Driehaus/Naples Daily News/USA TODAY - FLORIDA NETWORK)
The robot works by emitting
intense bursts of pulsed xenon ultraviolet light to penetrate the cell walls of
microorganisms to destroy them and stop them from reproducing or mutating,
according to Xenex officials.
The system works on bacteria,
viruses, mold, fungus and spores, according to company officials.
The robots work in 5-minute
cycles with the pulsed light targeted to disinfect surfaces where germs linger.
“Anything that’s close to the
patient that is touched frequently, like blood pressure machines, bathrooms,
sinks and door knobs,” said Dr. Vakhtang Bochorishvili, with NCH’s Infectious
NCH is using the robots initially
in high-risk areas, such as in intensive care units, critical care, operating
rooms, emergency departments and patient rooms, he said.
Ultimately, the hospital is
striving for zero infection rates and the robot “gives us some advantage,” he
Paul Hiltz, NCH president and
CEO, said the robots were used at Mercy Medical Center in Canton, Ohio, where
he was before joining NCH last fall. He wanted to bring the technology to NCH.
“Our goal is to provide the
safest possible healing environment for our patients,” he said. “NCH
already has a comprehensive infection prevention program in place and we are
very excited about adding these robots to our infection prevention
The robot does not give an alert
or report to NCH infectious disease officials about what germs it may have
found after it completes a germ-destroying cycle in a room, he said.
Instead, NCH will look at
its own infection data and can expect a decline going forward due to the
robot, he said.
The robot does not replace manual
cleaning of operating rooms and other areas where patients have been, said
Georgine Kruedelbach, NCH's director of infection prevention.
“It is an extra layer of
protection,” she said. “I love it. I just think it adds to our standards of
care and increases safety.”
A Xenex LightStrike Germ-Zapping
robot uses pulsed xenon ultraviolet light to disinfect a room at NCH Downtown
Baker Hospital in Naples on Tuesday, February 4, 2020. NCH now has three of the
robots, which help to decrease infection rates by disinfecting rooms after the
rooms are manually cleaned. (Photo:
Alex Driehaus/Naples Daily News/USA TODAY - FLORIDA NETWORK)
Each robot costs $106,000, but
that expense can be covered quickly compared to the expense of caring for
a patient with a hospital-associated infection which can run $50,000,
The three robots are based at NCH
Baker Hospital Downtown but there are plans to equip North Naples Hospital.
The robot is used in 500
hospitals around the world with about 35 hospitals in Florida, according to Witt
Copeland, director of client services for Xenex.
“Naples is the first in the
Southwest Florida coast,” he said.
With the recent coronavirus
outbreak from China which the World Health Organization declared a global
health emergency, the Xenex robot has not been tested with the China strain
yet, Melinda Hart, a company spokeswoman, said.
The robot has been tested with
another coronavirus strain and it was effective, she said.
“We don’t have (access) to the
China strain,” Hart said. “We don’t know when we will get it.”
Xenex officials have offered to
work with government officials to figure out if the robot system can be useful,
“We are open to the idea of
assisting any way we can,” he said.
Hospital acquired infections and
their impact to patient care and to hospitals’ safety records are critical
issues for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid and the Centers for Disease
The CDC says that on any given
day, one in 31 hospital patients have at least one hospital-related infection.
Nearly half million Americans
annually suffer from C. diff colitis during hospitalization with symptoms of
diarrhea to life-threatening colon inflammation. An estimated 15,000 deaths are
directly attributed to the infection, according to the CDC.
Studies have shown hospitals
spend nearly $5 billion a year in excess health care costs due to C. diff,
according to the CDC.
Another common hospital
infection, MRSA, afflicts 1.2 million people annually while hospitalized,
according to the CDC.
Clinic in Minnesota conducted its own C. diff study using the Xenex robot and
found a 47% reduction of the infection over a two-year period, according
to study findings published in February in the American Journal of Infection