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Hand-washing technology can reduce germs in healthcare restrooms

By Kris Alderson / Special to Healthcare Facilities Today
June 8, 2018

Americans have a high sensitivity to germs in public places. So when you combine germs, healthcare facilities and restrooms, that combination makes for an especially uneasy American public, according to annual research by Bradley Corp., manufacturer of commercial restroom fixtures. 

Bradley’s 2018 survey revealed that out of all types of public-facing facilities, healthcare establishments (hospitals, clinics, and doctors' and dentists' offices) cause 41 percent of Americans to have the highest level of germ concerns tied to hand washing – or lack of it.  (Interestingly, restaurants raise the most concern about hand washing practices, receiving 42 percent of the vote.)

While patient room restrooms are critical sources of germs and hand washing, so are restrooms in public areas, such as exam room areas, waiting rooms and public lobbies. These areas may not only harbor germs, but their overall appearance and cleanliness also makes important impressions on visitors and patients as they enter – and leave – healthcare facilities.

Stopping the spread of HAIs

The growing awareness and proliferation of Healthcare Acquired Infections (HAIs) have undoubtedly raised the anxiety levels of Americans. This growing issue has also driven the commercial washroom industry to research and cultivate plumbing product and technology advancements that limit germs, promote better hygiene while providing an attractive and welcoming washroom experience.

While Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says that considerable progress has been made in preventing some HAIs in recent years, more work still needs to be done to eliminate these potentially deadly pathogens.  According to CDC, one in 25 hospital patients has at least one HAI. While numbers of some types of infections are decreasing, the numbers from just a few years ago are startling. In 2014, CDC reported that in 2011 there were an estimated 722,000 HAIs in U.S. acute care hospitals and approximately 75,000 of those infections were traced to the death of a patient. More than half of all HAIs occurred outside of the intensive care unit.

While infection prevention and control processes have advanced over the past decade or so, the evolving HAI landscape continues to present new challenges to healthcare administrators and facility managers.

Antibiotic-resistant infections pose an uphill battle for healthcare administrators, as does the continuum of care that extends between hospitals and other healthcare facilities such as ambulatory surgery centers, continuing care facilities and rehab hospitals. Another source of HAI transmission stems from the various routes of germs entering facilities via fomites, or substances and objects that carry infections organisms, such as computers, cell phones, door knobs and bathroom surfaces.

Medical staffs’ adherence to hand hygiene best practices are also undoubtedly key in combating HAIs. Awareness efforts, such as signage and electronic compliance systems, can help reinforce proper hand washing follow-through.

Steering clear of stagnant water

In healthcare settings, stagnant water in hand washing systems can be at risk for collecting germs. An increasing number of hospitals now require faucets to have a 24-hour purge/rinse cycle to flush waterborne pathogens. Some newer hand washing models are programmed to purge water every 24 hours for 5 seconds if the unit hasn’t been activated within that time. By draining stagnant water from the piping system and flushing with heated water, micro-organisms are reduced and prevented from growing in the system.

Eliminating touchpoints in restrooms

It’s no surprise that germ-adverse Americans prefer touchless restroom fixtures and are even expected in facilities, especially healthcare environments. According to Bradley’s survey almost 70% of Americans believe that it is particularly important that healthcare facilities have touchless restroom fixtures.

This preference is with good reason, as touchless fixtures minimize germy touchpoints in restrooms, which in turn helps to stop the spread of germs visitor to visitor, visitor to patient, patient to medical staff and vice versa.

Sensor-operated faucets, flush valves, soap dispensers, hand dryers and bedpan washers operate automatically so there’s less chance of touching contaminated areas and spreading the germs to other surfaces like doorknobs, countertops and other areas in the room and throughout the facility.

These fixtures also minimize maintenance time spent on refilling paper towel dispensers, emptying waste bins, refilling soap dispensers, and cleaning and fixing broken faucet handles. Therefore, touchless fixtures can help facility management save materials, time and money.  

Newer washbasins provide completely touchless all-in-one hand washing models with touch-free water, soap and hand dryer. This integrated design further elevates protection against cross-contamination in addition to making hand washing easily accessible, convenient and user friendly, even for those with mobility challenges.

Sustainable materials that diminish germ buildup  

Solid surface. Hospitals are increasingly using solid surface material because it is easy to clean and does not support bacterial growth. Solid surface, a popular choice for countertops and sinks, is also repairable to its original finish. Its resistance to stains, chemicals and impact makes it ideal for patient restrooms as well as higher-volume public restrooms. Surface marks and scratches are repaired easily with cleaners and sanitizers or fine-grit abrasives. Solid surface lavatories also feature bowls that are integrated seamlessly into the fixture, so there are no cracks and crevices for microbes to accumulate.

For more sustainable applications, solid surface is available with post-consumer recycled material. A number of solid surface products are GREENGUARD-certified.

Natural quartz. Restroom fixtures made of durable, natural and recycled materials are being used more frequently. For example, molded natural quartz material can be shaped into a range of designs and options ideal for healthcare settings. Like solid surface, its seamless design has a non-porous surface so it does not support microbial growth, and is easy to clean. Natural quartz is made of granite, minerals, and other natural stones, which makes this material resilient as well as environmentally friendly. Natural quartz products that are GREENGUARD-certified are particularly suitable for sustainable designs.

Flexible washing designs expand functionality

Some newer lavatories are designed with specially designed sinks to accommodate hand washing and general cleaning of items, so they can be used in patient rooms, exam rooms and nursing stations. Available with either a seamless countertop system or a basin-only option, this clean and contemporary aesthetic achieves an attractive non-institutional look.

While restrooms in healthcare facilities may be a vulnerable to cross-contamination of germs, today’s washroom fixtures design, technology and materials are advancing the level of hygiene and germ control.

High quality washroom fixtures made of durable and sustainable materials have hygienic qualities, are more resistant to wear and tear, and can significantly reduce upkeep and maintenance. Their refined aesthetics can also encourage better hand washing practices while reinforcing a healthier healthcare environment.

Kris Alderson is senior marketing manager for Bradley Corporation of Menomonee Falls, Wis. For more information, visit www.bradleycorp.com.

 

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