Healthcare Technology Featured Article

December 15, 2023

Hospitals Utilising AI Technology to Improve Infection Standards and Air Quality

Cleaning sounds like a dirty word, but it’s a vital part of many procedures. This is crucial in hospital-based environments, where medical staff and professional cleaners have to work around the challenges of unknown fluids and increasing volumes of infectious and dangerous particles from patient to patient.

For those who are completing a public policy certificate online, developments in cleaning technologies, such as improvements in ultraviolet irradiation technologies (UV-C) through AI offer a fascinating insight into how hospital departments respond to complex issues that arise as a result of health crises - such as the impact of increased cleaning on hospital teams with reduced staffing capacities.

Let’s leap into the dirty world of germs, and understand how challenges that are emerging in contemporary infection control may be addressable with new and innovative technologies such as ultraviolet irradiation.

The Evolution of Germs In A Changing Climate

Germs thrive in the right environment. Provide a damp, humid space, introduce some spores and mould can rapidly proliferate - an issue that often plagues homeowners around the country. In a hospital environment, germs and infections are constantly being introduced from new avenues - from patients, the clothes that they wear, and sometimes even internal practices such as intense and repeated cleaning that can result in superbugs.

While they may sound like something out of a comic book, superbugs represent a real and present danger to the health of communities. These bugs thrive in hospital environments, with traditional cleaning methods struggling to remove them from hospital environments. In fact, some estimates by the OECD project that an average of nearly 300 people each year die in Australia as a result of infections due to superbugs - in fact, more Australians die as a result of superbugs each year than there are deaths on Victorian roads - however, it’s not as widely reported.

The Complexities of Disinfection

While germs are evolving, much can be said about the lack of evolution in infection control in the past half-century. As the world has become more interconnected, and travel has gotten faster, traditional infection control solutions such as quarantine stations have been decommissioned and closed down.

This presented significant problems during the recent coronavirus pandemic, where governments had to quickly rebuild and relaunch quarantine facilities to contain infections from travellers. While the reintroduction of quarantine facilities to handle infection control was a new process, it was applauded in some circles as a way of managing illnesses in an environment delineated from contemporary hospital settings, an area of health that was struggling under increased caseloads and a lack of space.

Unfortunately, building quarantine stations and returning to a biosecurity standard of the 1950s is not a realistic way to contain modern infections. Current cleaning standards, while effective, and incredibly time consuming and can sometimes be quite expensive, particularly when large volumes of cleaning products are required.

To improve infection control, hospital administrators need to identify new and emerging techniques that may be able to be used in conjunction with existing hospital processes to save time, increase infection control effectiveness, and potentially save lives.

An Emerging Technology - UV-C Disinfection

As superbugs are beginning to wreak havoc in hospitals, medical instrument businesses are looking for new and innovative ways to help support cleaning staff in tackling the superbug scourge. Firms such as the Shimadzu Corporation are teaming up with artificial intelligence firms like Shyld to spearhead ultraviolet irradiation technologies that are enhanced by AI algorithms and machine learning.

Contemporary cleaning solutions often use chemicals and often require significant manual handling. This can be particularly expensive, as the cost to produce specialised cleaning products to a high standard can often cost many times more than traditional, store-bought cleaning products.

While UV rays can be dangerous to unprotected human skin, an advantage of UV is that it is incredibly effective at destroying viruses on surfaces. In an environment where cleaning products are becoming less and less effective, innovative UV products offer a fascinating insight into the future potential of cleaning products.

Consider, for example, technologies that track a user’s movement as they walk into a sterile environment. Products such as an object scanner supported by artificial intelligence can identify what areas a user has interacted with so that on departure, a UV-C laser can disinfect affected surfaces with UV-C light - a variation of short-wavelength ultraviolet light. No cleaners or clearing products are required - in fact, some recent studies have found that UV-C may be effective in medical settings.

What Does The Future Hold For These New Technologies?

It’s an exciting time ahead for emerging cleaning technologies in the hospital sector. It’s clear that future hospital administrators will need to imagine a future where new cleaning technologies such as UV-C are used to complement or replace existing practices and procedures.

While superbugs and a changing infection control environment present themselves as active risks to patients and medical personnel alike, it’s crucial that innovation continues in medical instrumentation. It’ll be fascinating to see what other innovations in infection control are developed in recent years, and it presents an optimistic environment for tackling infections in the years to come.

Get stories like this delivered straight to your inbox. [Free eNews Subscription]


FREE eNewsletter

Click here to receive your targeted Healthcare Technology Community eNewsletter.
[Subscribe Now]