A Guide to Antimicrobials in Healthcare and Hospitals in 2023
By The Altus Team
Published Nov 10, 2022
| Updated Mar 02, 2023
| 5 min read
Healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) impact nearly 1.7 million people each year in American hospitals. Approximately 5% of patients admitted to the hospital contract an HAI, costing the U.S. healthcare system nearly $21 billion to $34 billion per year. The environment a patient is in has a big impact on their overall well-being, just as much as the care provided by the nurse.
Cleaning routines and guidelines have been updated in recent years to help reduce the occurrence of HAIs. This includes new technologies automatically included in the materials used to build equipment that inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria. Antimicrobial healthcare products are products that remain cleaner in between cleanings and reduce the spread of bacteria on surfaces. When choosing materials for healthcare, it’s important to ensure they’re made with these antimicrobial technologies at the point of manufacturing so they will not wash off or wear away.
When used appropriately, antimicrobials improve patient outcomes, reduce microbial resistance, and reduce the spread of HAIs. When misused or overused, infectious organisms learn to adapt to antimicrobials and antimicrobials become ineffective failing to kill the infectious organism. Infected patients have a higher chance of staying at the hospital longer or worse, dying as a result of the infection. Keep reading to learn more about antimicrobials in healthcare and hospitals.
Antimicrobial vs. Antibacterial
Although “antimicrobial” and “antibacterial” are often interchanged, there is a distinct difference.
Antimicrobial is an agent that either inhibits growth or destroys microorganisms, like alcohol-based hand sanitizer. These agents prevent the spread of bacteria, fungi, parasites, and some viruses.
On the other side, an antibacterial is an agent that either inhibits growth or destroys bacteria. Soap and detergents are some examples. Antibacterial agents prevent the development of bacteria.
Antimicrobial products can kill bacteria and microorganisms whereas antibacterial is limited to bacteria.
Recognized as one of the biggest threats to human health across the world, antimicrobial resistance occurs when infectious organisms learn to adapt to antimicrobials. This natural ability for bacteria to evolve genetically and defend themselves against antibiotics causes once-powerful drugs and cleaners to become useless.
Antimicrobial resistance has become rampant in hospitals. Out of the 1.7 million Americans who will contract an HAI, there are 99,000 deaths due to anti-bacterial-resistant pathogens. This costs the U.S. healthcare system nearly $21 billion to $34 billion per year.
The best ways to combat antimicrobial resistance includes prescribing fewer antibiotics, disinfecting workstation more often, and being sure to overuse any antimicrobial when cleaning so microorganisms do not have the chance to mutate.
Myth: Antimicrobials are COVID-19 Virus Elimination Agents
Fact: Antimicrobials do not protect against the COVID-19 virus. But they do protect against Streptococcus, E-coli, etc.
Although antimicrobials cannot eliminate the COVID-19 virus from surfaces, they can act as a second line of defense. Built-in antimicrobial materials in healthcare products can support antibiotic resistance prevention efforts. Antimicrobial products paired with appropriate cleaning and disinfecting leave less room for the growth of bacteria, which means fewer organisms in the healthcare environment that patients and caregivers may encounter.
Antimicrobials in Healthcare Products
Antimicrobials should be incorporated into healthcare products at the point of manufacturing to make sure they don’t wash off or wear away. Antimicrobial technology can be incorporated into many materials including plastics, coatings, textiles, and thermofoil.
Altus is a workstation manufacturer for healthcare. This means we design and engineer reliable products that support clinicians and ultimately their patients. To further improve the delivery of healthcare, Altus med carts with computers, telemedicine equipment, and wall-mounted workstations are built with antimicrobial components so they don’t wash off. To further help the cleaning and disinfecting efforts hospitals are putting in place, each Altus worksurface is able to be cleaned and disinfected with EPA-approved disinfectants against COVID-19.
Altus & EPA Approved COVID-19 Disinfectants
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently published a guide on disinfectants that meet its criteria for use against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
Below are some of the approved disinfectants that have shown to have no discoloration or damage to the finish on Altus 3D laminate worksurfaces. The full list of approved disinfectants to use on Altus workstations can be found here.
AVISTAT-D™ Ready To Use Spray
Bleach 1:5 (20% bleach)
Bleach-Rite® Disinfecting Spray
Antimicrobials are the best way to keep staff and patients healthy in hospitals. Following a set cleaning schedule and using the correct products can decrease the chances of an HAI, and allow clinicians to focus on the care they offer. Also, ensuring you have a healthcare treatment cart with built-in antimicrobial provides added security to protect against microorganisms and bacteria.
Contact Altus for more information on our worksurfaces built with antimicrobial components and extra features for disinfecting.