When patients enter a healthcare setting, they expect a solution to their problems – a cure for their maladies. They don’t anticipate that they will be exposed to pathogens that could make them sick.
To that end, patients assume that healthcare facilities are rigorously cleaned and carefully disinfected, and most healthcare providers are glad to accommodate. Signs of cleanliness are everywhere as clinical staff and EVS teams put forth visible effort to maintain clean spaces and eradicate pathogens.
The scary truth is that while maintaining a high standard of cleanliness and hygiene is essential to prevent the spread of infections, manual cleaning methods come with inherent drawbacks that limit effectiveness and put patients and healthcare providers at risk.
Here are five frightening truths about manual cleaning in healthcare settings that you can’t afford to ignore.
#1 The mix might not be quite right.
Surface disinfection is a critical procedure that demands precision and accuracy. However, when clinical staff and EVS teams mix cleaning concentrates, they can create ineffective or unsafe solutions.
For instance, one study found that during the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare teams were prone to improperly prepare disinfectant solutions, creating overly concentrated cleaners that introduced new externalities into the healthcare environment.
As the study notes, when solutions are mixed improperly, “users may be exposed to an excessive concentration of the disinfectant, or dangerous by-products, as a result of chemical reactions caused by improper mixing of products.”
Especially for facilities that opt out of using ready-to-use (RTU) products, improperly mixing cleaning solutions can impede efficacy, preventing even the most rigorous routines from effectively disinfecting surfaces and warding off healthcare-associated infections (HAIs).
#2 Inconsistencies and human error happen every day.
Despite the best intentions and preparation, humans are inherently inconsistent.
According to an analysis by The American Journal of Infection Control, “Over the past 4 years, 8 studies using direct covert observation or a fluorescent targeting method have confirmed that only 40% of near patient surfaces are being cleaned in accordance with existing hospital policies.”
Even with rigorous training and the best intentions, distractions, fatigue, or simple oversight can result in missed or inadequately cleaned areas. The variability in human performance means that two people might clean the same space differently, leading to potential gaps in disinfection.
What’s even scarier is that even when disinfectants are correctly used, the fast-paced, sometimes frantic nature of many healthcare settings means that staff might not always allow disinfectants to sit and contact surfaces for the required dwell time, compromising their efficacy and undermining the potential impact of manual cleaning.
#3 Superbugs keep showing up.
In the microscopic world of viruses and bacteria, some are more dangerous than others. Ineffective manual cleaning practices make the worst ones more prominent, increasing the potential for exposure and infection.
For example, C. auris, a multi-drug resistant fungus that can cause serious infections and even death in some patients, has been called an “urgent threat” by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Cases are climbing rapidly, and inadequate cleaning and disinfection protocols make it more likely to spread in healthcare settings, posing an even greater risk to more expansive patient populations. In the U.S., the first pediatric cluster of the fungus was notably caused by poorly cleaned equipment.
Of course, dangerous viruses and bacteria emerge constantly and require healthcare providers to continuously put their best foot forward with their disinfection protocols.
#4 Chemical exposure puts people at risk.
Cleaning teams can inadvertently expose themselves to the hazards of improper blending while manually mixing disinfectant solutions, which inherently carries the potential risk of chemical mishaps.
Unfortunately, even when clinical staff and EVS teams follow all the right cleaning guidelines, exposure to many common manual cleaning chemicals, including hydrogen peroxide (HP), bleach, peracetic acid (PAA), and acetic acid (AA), can cause respiratory symptoms.
According to a study by the Respiratory Health Division at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, “exposure to a product containing HP, PAA, and AA contributed to eye and respiratory symptoms reported by hospital cleaning staff at low levels of measured exposure.”
#5 Manual cleaning can merely move pathogens around.
Cleaning and disinfection are not the same thing. Disinfection is more than an aesthetic improvement. It kills viruses and bacteria, which is critical in a healthcare setting. However, the human element associated with manual cleaning makes it frighteningly likely that viruses and bacteria are not being eradicated but being transported.
One study found that “Cross-contamination among surfaces following terminal cleaning alone was documented in 50% of the total samples,” with chairs and floors mostly likely to be cross-contaminated from manual cleaning.
In other words, when disinfection doesn’t work, clinical staff and EVS teams are merely moving pathogens around from one location to another, a definitively bad use of time and resources as it neither improves holistic cleanliness nor enhances patient safety.
It’s spooky, right? If you’re feeling freaked out by the shortcomings of manual cleaning, we have some excellent news.
Automated Solutions Simplify Better Results for Everyone
Healthcare settings, meant to be havens of healing, cannot afford the dangers posed by manual cleaning methods. From human errors in mixing and applying solutions to the simple but profound risk of merely spreading pathogens rather than eliminating them, manual cleaning has revealed its limitations.
These truths are not just alarming; they can be life-threatening, especially in places where patient safety should be paramount. Automated cleaning and disinfection processes can address the vulnerabilities of manual methods by ensuring consistent, accurate, and comprehensive coverage.
One of the most effective disinfectants used in automated solutions is hypochlorous acid (HOCl). HOCl is highly effective against pathogens — up to 100 times more effective than bleach. It’s also safe for human contact, nontoxic, and environmentally friendly. HOCl’s rapid kill times ensure swift eradication of harmful microbes, offering an added layer of security in healthcare settings.
Nevoa’s automated, no-touch fogging solutions deliver 100 percent HOCl surface contact, eliminating the unpredictability of manual cleaning.
By automating disinfection protocols, healthcare providers can drastically lower the risk of HAIs, boost patient recovery rates and enhance the overall quality of care. Manual cleaning may not provide the cleanliness we want or need, but automated disinfection protocols can help keep those fears at bay.
Contact Nevoa today to learn more about how we can help you make the frightening truths about manually cleaning a thing of the past.