Erlanger Health System has added a "germ-zapping robot" to its team to help keep facilities clean and to prevent the spread of infections.
The robot, which Erlanger leaders likened to R2D2 from "Star Wars," is called Xenex. It uses pulses of xenon ultraviolet light—which is 25,000 times more powerful than sunlight—to destroy harmful bacteria, viruses, fungi and bacterial spores.
Erlanger is the first hospital in Chattanooga and the second in Tennessee to have this technology, leaders said.
"Our team members are very excited to be using this kind of advanced technology in their daily work," Steve Wheeler with Erlanger’s environmental services said, according to a news release. "The environmental services team feels very empowered because they can clearly see that they’re saving lives by preventing infections."
Erlanger's environmental services partner Sodexo purchased the robot for $80,000, according to a spokeswoman.
According to hospital leaders, studies have shown that Xenex room disinfection is 20 times more effective than other standard cleaning practices.
Click here to read a CNN article from last year about the technology.
Xenex is effective against a variety of dangerous superbugs, such as lostridium difficile endospores, norovirus, influenza and staph bacteria like methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Erlanger leaders said.
One in 20 hospital patients are battling an infection that they got on-site, according to CNN.
It takes between five and 10 minutes for the device to disinfect a patient room, patient bathroom or operating room.
The cost to clean each room comes out to $3 a room, also according to a hospital spokeswoman.
The robot's pulsing ultraviolet light washes over the surfaces where germs reside without leaving a chemical residue.
To disinfect a room after standard cleaning procedures are complete, hospital team members wheel the Xenex robot into the room, begin the automated sequence and then leave the room. For enhanced safety, a sign placed outside the door warns people not to enter, and a motion sensor automatically shuts off the machine if someone should enter.
"We already have a strong infection prevention program. The Xenex technology allows us to be even more proactive in protecting the health of our patients and staff," Coretha Weaver, Erlanger infection prevention coordinator, said, according to a news release. "This technology is used in high-risk areas, including operating rooms and patient rooms, in conjunction with the extensive cleaning services already provided by our environmental services team."
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