February 01, 2021

 By Brian Stern
 CEO and co-founder of PURO UV Disinfection Lighting,
 LED Supply Co., LLC

COVID-19 has completely transformed how we interact with our surroundings. Doorknobs, elevator buttons, restaurant tables, and even the air itself—all now seem like potential deadly threats. But the reality is that viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens aren’t new. And as more and more pathogens become resistant to common disinfectants and drugs, the danger doesn’t end with COVID-19.

Hospitals weren’t prepared for this pandemic, and they can’t afford to be caught off guard again next time. That leaves them with a dual challenge: ensuring a safe and sanitary environment and rebuilding public confidence in their safety precautions.

As we’ve seen during the current pandemic, diseases can spread rapidly between patients and care providers. But that risk is not limited to COVID-19. In fact, 1 in 20 hospital patients contracts a healthcare-associated infection daily, costing the industry billions every year. As more and more antimicrobial-resistant pathogens emerge, that threat will only increase.

In other words, relying on manual cleaning methods is simply not good enough. That’s where UV disinfection comes in. New applications of UV technology have the potential to radically reduce the dangers of infection without requiring additional chemical disinfectants or a major investment of employee time. Since this technology can disinfect the air as well as surfaces, it provides an important additional layer of clinical-grade protection to protect and reassure staff and patients.

Scientists have known for over 140 years that the sun’s UV rays, especially the shorter wavelengths of the solar spectrum, effectively neutralize bacteria. Today we understand that UV-C, UV-B, and UV-A light spectrums have the power to kill not only bacteria but also viruses, fungi, and other pathogens by oxidizing proteins and lipids, leading to cell death. That science underlies ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI), a technique used across a number of industries, including food production.

Until recently, UV disinfection technology has relied on large, complicated, and expensive products. Today’s solutions, on the other hand, are not only more powerful than competitors’ products but also smaller, less expensive, and easier to use. Now, UV disinfection is a powerful tool that can increase any facility’s defenses through applications like ceiling-installed devices and even UV disinfection robots programmed to trace a designated route through a hospital’s halls. These products can be scheduled to run at certain times and utilize motion sensor shutoffs to avoid unnecessary human exposure to UV light, making them incredibly safe and low maintenance.

Today’s best UV disinfecting technologies have been proven to kill up to 99.99% of viruses, bacteria, fungi, and mold on surfaces and in the air. Many of these pathogens are difficult to control with standard hospital disinfection regimens. The results of the infectious disease that arise from these pathogens can be devastating to an already immunocompromised patient population. Recent outbreaks of antimicrobial-resistant pathogens in hospitals across the country have reinforced the need to tackle the problem of disinfection head-on.

Of course, it’s hard for any organization to shoulder the costs of preparing for “whatever may come.” After all, it’s impossible to argue the ROI of an investment in preparedness without knowing whether or not a certain scenario will come to pass. For an organization focused on operating in the most cost-efficient way possible, this can be a hard pill to swallow. Even hospitals fall into the trap of weighing costs against perceived benefits, despite their role in so many worst-case scenarios.

We all saw this play out early in 2020. The shortage of ventilators and PPE in the United States could be partially attributed to the fact that hospitals had not stockpiled these supplies to deal with an event as drastic as COVID-19. Ventilators and other critical care equipment are extremely expensive to buy, store, and maintain, and most hospitals had been unable to justify the cost of machines that would only be needed in an unprecedented catastrophe.

These shortages have not only put patients and healthcare providers at risk but also damaged public trust in the healthcare infrastructure. The strain on medical institutions’ capacities and funding has been immense, and hospitals simply cannot afford to make this mistake again. It’s time to radically rethink the preparedness vs. cost-efficiency equation.

The latest technology makes it possible for hospitals and medical facilities to make huge strides in preparedness for the next outbreak, whether it’s a global pandemic or a MRSA cluster inside the facility. And next-generation safety and health equipment like UV disinfection systems is increasingly affordable, making the cost-benefit analysis even easier.

Ultimately, the future of individual healthcare facilities depends on the actions they take now. Patients are increasingly wary of hospitals, even if they have significant health needs, because of the growing perception that medical facilities are unsafe and unclean. This puts hospitals and medical facilities are at immense financial and reputational risk if they don’t take proper precautions, including creating multi-faceted and effective infection control plan to prevent the spread of any type of pathogen within the facility.

Hospitals and medical practices that adopt and publicize a gold-standard sanitation approach, centered around UV light disinfection, will be best positioned to regain patients’ trust and encourage them to return for the care they need. Simply put, investments now can help keep patients and providers safe—and protect the hospital’s future.

About the Author: Brian Stern, an entrepreneur focusing on technology and new enterprise development in the lighting industry, is the CEO and co-founder of PURO UV Disinfection Lighting, LED Supply Co., LLC.
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