Reducing Patient Readmissions Through Lighting

| July 20, 2018

Healthcare facilities are always striving to provide the best care for their patients. Part of that goal is to prevent current patients from having to return after being discharged due to an infection. It is currently estimated that one in every 25 patients has at least one healthcare associated infection (HAI). These HAI’s lead to both longer patient stays and more frequent patient readmissions if they are not caught and dealt with prior to the patient being discharged.

patient HAI

Lighting systems within healthcare facilities should be designed with the reduction in the number of HAI’s in mind. Through new technologies utilizing either Ultraviolet or Visible Spectrum lighting, air-borne and surface dwelling pathogens can be killed regardless of whether or not a room is occupied.

Ultraviolet Light Disinfection

Ultraviolet light is the portion of the electromagnetic wave spectrum that ranges from 40 nm to 400 nm. It is further broken down into sub spectrums known as vacuum UV, far UV, UVA, UVB, and UVC. All forms of Ultraviolet light are emitted from the sun but only UVA and UVB are able to pass through the Earth’s ozone layer, while the other are blocked.

The ultraviolet light fixtures that are currently used throughout the industry emit Ultraviolet C (UVC) which has wavelengths between 100 nm and 280 nm spectrum. As noted, UVC is typically blocked by the Earth’s atmosphere when emitted by the sun but it can be used in light fixtures to inactivate the harmful viruses / bacteria located within healthcare environments.

Bacterial inactivation is the process by which a bacteria’s DNA is altered to the point that it can no longer reproduce. This essentially renders the bacteria harmless causing it to die without spreading its dangerous effects. In this way, UVC light can disinfect a typical operating room within 30 minutes by killing all pathogens in the area, whether air-borne or located on a surface within the room.

Ultraviolet light is often used in conjunction with conventional methods of cleaning in healthcare facilities to help mitigate the spread of harmful pathogens such as Clostridium difficile (C. diff) and MRSA , two of the most common bacteria associated with HAI’s. UVC light fixtures are typically installed on mobile carts so that they can be used in any patient care area throughout the hospital. In some of the higher risk areas such as operating rooms or procedure rooms they can also be installed in the ceiling for a more permanent solution.

The downside to UVC treatments is that they can be harmful to anyone within the room when activated and therefore can only be utilized when a room is unoccupied. In order to ensure that these fixtures are not used when a room is occupied, these fixtures are typically controlled by occupancy sensors or light switches located outside of the room.  For this reason, visible light disinfection was developed to reduce the potential harm that can be caused by UVC light fixtures.

Visible Light Disinfection

patient room lightsDue to the nature of UVC lighting being harmful to humans as well as bacteria, visible light disinfection is becoming a more popular option when it comes to full room disinfection. While the process is essentially the same as UVC disinfection, visible light disinfection uses the 405 nm wavelength (just outside the UV spectrum) to deactivate pathogens. This wavelength is commonly referred to as blue-violet light. Because the wavelength used exists outside of the UV spectrum, it is safe to be used while a room is occupied. While it is the safer option when compared to UVC light, it should be noted that it does take longer to fully disinfect a room.

Light fixtures equipped with a blue-violet  light option are typically offered with two settings.  The first setting will have the standard white light on as well as the blue-violet light to allow the room to be used normally while disinfection is taking place. The second setting will have only the blue-violet light on to provide the maximum disinfection possible while the room is unoccupied. By allowing the blue-violet light to remain on throughout the rooms operation, this method provides a full 24 hours of disinfection.  The transfer between these two settings can be achieved by either an occupancy sensor or a low voltage switch with three different scene buttons.

Conclusion

Both methods of disinfection are effective at inactivating viruses and bacteria found in healthcare environments. While visible spectrum treatments can be utilized when a room is occupied, UVC light can be used to quickly disinfect a room. As each technology has its pros and cons, we at Fitzemeyer & Tocci can help you decide which technology would best suit the needs of your facility. By using either of these methods  in conjunction with standard cleaning procedures, the risk of staff or patients being exposed to or transmitting harmful pathogens is reduced significantly, decreasing the likelihood that a patient will contract a HAI and have to return to the hospital.

Click here to view the guide on Infrastructure Design for Reduced Patient Readmissions

Timothy Piehl
About

As Electrical Project Engineer, Tim coordinates entire systems from concept through construction, conducting site visits, systems evaluations, cost estimates and specifications. He has provided these services for a multitude of project types for various types of clients from academic to healthcare to municipal to science and technology. As the Electrical Project Engineer, Tim ensures the project’s electrical designs are fully code compliant and up-to-date with industry standards.

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