Weekend reading: the life and spread of microbes in the average hospital room

We in healthcare and health tech know how deadly nosocomial or hospital-acquired infections are. Current CDC estimates are that in US hospitals, there are 1.7 million infections and 99,000 associated deaths each year (up from a previous estimate of 75,000) PatientCareLink. Most of us know that visiting a patient in a hospital room means also making sure hands are washed, clothes and shoes are clean, and that we bring a container of industrial strength bleach wipes for cleaning surfaces versus flowers.

However, it was news to this Editor that few studies have been done on the actual hospital room environment–the microbiome–and how the microbes in the room interact with the patient and the staff.  Sue Barnes, an RN who spent 30 years as the National Leader for Infection Prevention for Kaiser Permanente, reviews a newly published study in Science Translational Medicine (24 May, abstract available only). The study collected bacterial cultures from the ‘patient zone’ around the bed, every surface in the hospital room, and swabbed the hands and noses of patients and staff, along with the shoes, shirts, and cell phones of staff members. The problem is much more complex than simple cleaning.

  • Patient skin and the microbial makeup of room surfaces became more similar over time. Non-ambulatory patients were less so, as they had less contact with external surfaces.
  • The longer patients were in the room, the more genetic resistance to antibiotics the organisms acquired. This is despite the lack of association with antibiotics save topicals. The author suggests that regular cleaning may be the reason–only the strongest survive.
  • The hospital room is most threating to the most vulnerable, such as babies in a neonatal ICU
  • “In the Lax study, several bacterial samples taken more than 71 days apart were identical,  (more…)

Your weekly robot fix: ingestible robot fetches swallowed button batteries, more

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/mit-microsurgeon-2.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /]A research team drawn from MIT, the University of Sheffield and the Tokyo Institute of Technology has developed an ‘origami’ robot to aid in the location and fetching the result of a common and potentially fatal incident–swallowed button batteries or other foreign objects. The robot is swallowed in a capsule which dissolves. It then unfolds its dried pig intestine appendages and is directed by external magnetic fields towards the battery, attaches to it and safely moves through the digestive system. Another potential use is to patch wounds or deliver medicine to a specific location. Unlike other robots, it is untethered and moves freely, propelling itself through a ‘stick-slip’ motion, and is resistant to acidic gastric fluids. Next steps for the team are to equip it with sensors and to perform animal and human in vivo testing. ZDNet

Nosocomial hospital infections may also get a good zapping by disinfecting robots. In an 18 month test at Lowell (Massachusetts) General Hospital, robots with pulsing xenon high-dose ultraviolet light from Xenex Disinfection Services disinfected the Lowell Hospital ORs nightly in addition to routine chemical disinfection. The study estimated that they avoided an estimated 23 infections at a cost savings of one life and $478,000. MedCityNews.

Robotics in healthcare will also be part of the five tracks centered on informatics available to attendees of HEALTHINFO 2016, August 21 – 25, 2016 in Rome’s H10 ROMA CITTA,  organized by IARIA (International Academy, Research, and Industry Association). More information here.

And if you wonder if humans will be able to find work when robots take over everything (maybe we just go to conferences and have a guaranteed income?), take comfort (or not) in this interview with one of the two authors of Only Humans Need Apply: Winners and Losers in the Age of Smart Machines, a new book by Thomas Hayes Davenport and Julia Kirby. “One is to work alongside smart machines, and complement their activity. The other is to dip into what smart machines are unlikely to be able to do any time soon.” The emphasis on STEM education may be misplaced as many of these jobs will be replaced by AI. In healthcare, they predict that automation will displace specialists and empower GPs, leaving room for ultra specialization in combinations not thought of today. Robots beware: Humans will still be bosses of machines (TechRepublic)

Blueprint Health’s latest class tackles nosocomial infections, transitional care

The New York-based Blueprint Health accelerator announced this week its Winter 2015 class of seven: GlucoIQ, GroupHub, HealthyBytes, Limestone Labs, Moving Analytics, Signifikance and TapGenes. Most have a genetic analytics or payer emphasis. Of special interest to our readers are:

  • The home-based cardiac rehabilitation system of Moving Analytics, which uses a smartphone app, Movn, to guide patients through their care plan, joined with active patient management engaging them with nurses who call weekly to review progress.
  • Toronto-based Limestone Labs UV-C sanitization system for portable devices (the ubiquitous tablets and smartphones) which aren’t being cleaned effectively with wipes, and are becoming a new vector for hospital-based infections. They claim 99.99 percent kill rates with treatment of only 30 seconds. It started piloting last month in healthcare settings.
  • Healthy Bytes’ food management app, engaging patients with dieticians to monitor food intake with photos, time and other comments plus coaching.

The public demo day for this class will be 24 April. Blueprint Health is now taking applications for their summer class to be launched on 13 July. MedCityNews

Sanitizing iPads: study

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/iPad-wash-me.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /]It was inevitable–that the increased mobilization of in-hospital healthcare would lead to a study about reduction of microbial surface contamination leading to increased risk of nosocomial infection transmission. (Editor Steve and I were flagging this up in 2011 for both clinical devices and the patients!) Here’s the first study this Editor has seen on reducing the microbial load on iPads, and it’s out of Germany. Using a standard disinfectant–isopropanol tinted blue, otherwise known as alcohol, applied on the front, back and sides of the iPad in a six-step process–the procedure achieved a 98 percent + reduction compared to non-disinfected iPads. However this may violate the warranty, as the study warns! Study looks into standard disinfection of iPads in clinical setting (iMedicalApps)