Medical facilities are well aware of healthcare-associated infections. Central lines, ventilators, catheters and surgery sites are top ways patients can get serious life-threatening infections while receiving care at a hospital or other healthcare facility. Community-acquired infections are ones that are spread outside of healthcare settings. Patients visiting doctor’s offices are in the middle. The common infections that can be caught in a doctor’s office may likely originate in the waiting rooms and restroom facilities, and doctor’s offices may not have dedicated staff for disinfecting those areas. Here are three sanitary items needed by every doctor’s office.
Next to washing hands under running warm water and using a liberal amount of hand soap, foam and gel hand sanitizers are the next best thing. Ethanol alcohol is the main disinfecting ingredient of most home styles of sanitizers. There are other types available with benzaklonium chloride, benzethonium chloride or triclosan. None of them are capable of killing all pathogens, but they are much better than using nothing at all. For patient use, the drying effect of some hand sanitizers is not a major issue. However, it can be for staff who use it often throughout each workday. Benzaklonium and benzethonium are quaternary ammonium compounds, or “quats.” They do not dry hands like alcohol sanitizers do, but they need more clinical studies to prove effectiveness. Still, your office should have hand sanitizers, preferably in no-touch dispensers in patient rooms, at the reception and checkout desks, and in bathrooms by the door.
These are similar to the handy disposable wipes one can use at home, but they are designed to be used in healthcare facilities. Waiting rooms should not have seating with porous surfaces such as fabric upholstery. Hard surfaces are easiest to clean with germicidal wipes, and offices should have a protocol to follow for cleaning areas where patients who obviously have a viral, bacterial or fungal infection touched things. Germicidal wipes come in various container sizes, and mounting kits are available to attach them to walls to always have them ready to use. Disposable germicidal wipes are non-woven wipes made for single use. They usually contain quaternary ammonium compounds as the active germ-killing ingredients. Germicidal wipes kill pathogens, such as HIV, influenza, rhinovirus, hepatitis and e-coli, on hard surfaces.
A potent pathogen killer is UV light. Hospitals are using ultraviolet lights that can be wheeled into a room to sterilize hard surfaces in minutes. Your facility should consider investing in a UV sterilizer for use on the premises. It could be used during office hours to sterilize a patient room where there is a major concern of the possible spread of any sort of infection. An example may be after diagnosing a patient with MRSA. After hours, trained personnel can use the unit to sterilize the waiting room to ready it for the next day. With pathogens such as MRSA being able to live on hard surfaces for days or weeks, a UV sterilizer is a good investment.
The point is to do something to reduce the potential for spreading pathogens to other patients. It is hard to believe, but the medical community used to not see any value in washing hands before patient contact. Slow progress was made to get to the point that medical practices are at today. With the routines of daily practice, it is easy to become lackadaisical about protecting against infections. It is up to each facility to go above and beyond the call in protecting the community from the spread of infections that could be stopped at their sources.