Healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) are infections acquired as a result of medical or surgical treatments in hospitals, clinics, physician’s office, long-term care facilities, or other care settings. They have a debilitating impact worldwide as they prolong the duration of hospital stays, require additional diagnostic and therapeutic interventions, in many cases are the reason for patient transfer to intensive care units and are a cause for hospital readmissions. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), HAIs affect one out of every 31 hospital patients at any one time. In American hospitals alone, HAIs account for an estimated 1.7 million infections and 99,000 associated deaths each year, adding billions of dollars to health care costs. Prior to the intervention of The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), prolonged hospital stays and additional medical services resulting from HAIs involved a hefty additional income for health institutions. However, in 2008, the CMS adopted a non-payment policy for a number of HAIs, indeed putting financial pressure on providers to reassess methods of operation, and to decrease and prevent HAIs. The lack of direct reimbursement makes HAI control as much an economic consideration as a medical one.
There are several key factors responsible for increasing the risk of HAI contraction: The state of the patient such as age, the presence of a health condition compromising the immune system, and the use of wired or cabled medical devices such as ECG and other vital signs monitors which may come into contact with hundreds of patients and medical practitioners during the course of a week. Such equipment is considered a leading factor in the epidemiology of HAI transmission as it incorporates high-touch surfaces. In fact, numerous microorganisms, pathogens, and bacteria can survive on these surfaces anywhere from hours to months. Hence, there is an uprise in antibiotic-resistant bacteria strains and multidrug-resistant organisms (MDROs) transmitted by healthcare personnel or by touching medical equipment. Indeed, they are responsible for 2.8 million infections each year from which 35,000 people die and can cost health organizations anywhere from $28 billion to $45 billion each year in medication, labor, and care costs, of which 70% are non-reimbursable as they are related to preventable HAIs.
Presently, hygiene and proper disinfection remain the most effective way to circumvent HAIs. The hands of healthcare personnel frequently serve as vectors in transmitting pathogens to patients. In fact, the concept of hand sanitization and its power to fight disease was first implemented by the Hungarian doctor Ignaz Semmelweis in 1847. However, hand hygiene compliance among healthcare professionals continues to be low, and most efforts to improve it have failed. The reasons? Skin irritation, inaccessible supplies, patient needs perceived as priority, wearing gloves, forgetfulness, ignorance, high workload, understaffing and more. Indeed, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), a staggering 61% of healthcare workers do not comply with hand hygiene practices. Hand hygiene is a global concern such that “clean hands” campaigns are frequently launched to promote the importance of hand sanitization in healthcare settings. Nurses, doctors, and other members of health institutions all come into direct contact with patients; whether to check up on vital signs status, to connect patients to medical equipment, to administer medication, to carry out medical examination, and more.
Proper and frequent disinfection of high-touch surfaces is integral for decreasing HAI transmission. Surprisingly, institutions have a policy of cleaning portable medical equipment only once to three times a day. The mobility of certain medical equipment and its physical contact to numerous patients on a daily basis makes it susceptible for cross-contamination. The healthcare industry is inundated with technology-based solutions for device disinfection, from antimicrobial cleaners, enzymatic solutions, and UV-treatment. Yet they all rely on human efforts and fail largely due to a lack of proper training and accountability. Joint and collaborative strategies are frequently initiated to minimize HAIs contracted from medical equipment, but compliance remains low. Thus, the futile cycle of disinfection, hygiene and infection is maintained, and no endpoint is foreseeable.
With contact from personnel and medical equipment acting as a leading cause of pathogen transmission in the healthcare environment, an innovative and universal solution must be resolved to mitigate exposure.
Digital health and AI provide an opportunity to assist in decreasing numbers and improving statistics by untethering patients from connected devices. The Neteera solution presents a non-wearable, contact-free, hands-free, cable-free, and consumable-free approach by which vital signs can be monitored remotely, continuously, and most importantly, without physical contact with medical equipment or staff – thus seamlessly and safely facilitating rapid and accurate detection of fluctuations in health condition in a real-time manner. The Neteera microsensor requires a simple one-time fixation to wall or other suitable location and no further intervention or support is required from care provider or patient.
Neteera offers an enhanced clinical surveillance system and an exceptional solution for significantly decreasing HAIs, potentially saving thousands of lives, and billions of dollars to health providers.