EXPLORE - Fall 2017 - 10
THE EFFECTIVENESS OF
UV-C SYSTEMS FOR
By John Scherberger, BS, FAHE, CHESP
ost of us know Paul Harvey and his
famous "The Rest of the Story" radio
program. While this article was not
written by Paul Harvey, it follows in
a similar vein.
In 2015, I co-authored an article1
for the Association of the Healthcare Environment's
EXPLORE magazine in which I responded to a study2
by the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of
Medicine that compared the effectiveness of ultraviolet
C (UV-C) systems for hospital room disinfection in the
absence of manual disinfection.
The main goal of that article was to recommend a
"multi-modal" approach to cleaning healthcare facilities
1. Best practices for environmental services employees;
2. Best-in-class products that might include wipes,
chemicals, and UV-C disinfection systems; and
3. Hand hygiene.
The article posed a very provocative question: "Can a
robot clean a hospital room as well as a human?" Sounds
like a simple question, right? Wrong!
There is no nationally or universally accepted
definition for the word "clean," and that's a problem.
To the general public, "clean" means free from dirt,
dust, grime and yucky stuff. To medical professionals,
including environmental services and infection prevention, "clean" holds a completely different meaning. Not only does it mean free from dirt, dust, grime
and "yucky stuff;" it means that the surface, item, or
environment has been rendered as safe and free of
disease-causing pathogens as possible so as not to
cause human harm.
Successful room disinfection is a multimodal process that no one can lay exclusive claim to: not environmental services, not infection preventionists, and
not UV disinfecting machine manufacturers.
10 www.ahe.org I EXPLORE I Fall 2017
All UV disinfecting machines are not alike. Every
responsible manufacturer of a UV disinfection unit or
robot recommends using it as part of the process necessary in attaining heightened disinfection of a patient
room. Proper nursing, medical treatment, room cleaning
and disinfection is a process. The unit, or robot, must be
part of that process, accompanying the physical cleaning
and disinfection provided by a trained environmental
These machines and robots should be run in multiple positions with a break in the cycle to allow an
environmental services worker or nurse to flip items
that are frequently touched within the room. Adding a
mercury UV or pulsed xenon UV disinfection device to
the multimodal process will add to the processing time,
but it will also ensure a much higher level of disinfection
provided the appropriate processes are followed. Keep
in mind that UV disinfection also will provide safer working environments for staff, as well as patients.
There are no patient rooms or operating rooms currently in service that are so self-contained that one can
close a door and initiate an automated wash-down,
disinfection and drying process. Until patient rooms are
cleaned and disinfected automatically, trained and educated technicians will continue to be essential to patient
safety and quality patient outcomes. Environmental
services workers clean and remove grime and then begin
the room disinfection process. The UV machines will
disinfect surfaces and items that may have been missed
during the manual cleaning process.
Also, until advances in UV light disinfection evolve to
the point that rooms are designed or retrofitted with UV
generating systems built into the room, trained technicians will be needed to place, activate, and remove UV
machines or robots.
Yes, there are studies that cite levels of bacterial
load being reduced in patient rooms with just UV light