What makes healthcare equipment good for infection control?

From TVNs to procurement officers, anyone who works in the healthcare sector will be aware of the importance of infection control. And with good reason, too. As you can imagine, infection control helps to regulate and control the spread of bugs in healthcare environments like hospitals, hospices, and care homes. These places are susceptible to infection outbursts due, so including infection control in healthcare equipment is of the upmost importance.

It may sound too easy to be true, but by simply designing equipment that has no nooks and crannies with material that is easy to clean, reducing the spread of bacteria and infections can be much easier. This case study from 2008 shows how important it is for healthcare equipment to be designed with the practicalities of infection control in mind. We’ve taken a look at how certain materials, sonic welding, and inset tracking can help to prevent the spread of infection.

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Materials

As mentioned above, materials that are easy to clean are most ideal for healthcare equipment. Soft fabrics are prone to gathering bacteria, and they are particularly hard to clean. Vinyl is much more suited to infection control; it can be wiped down and it doesn’t hold as much dust or bacteria. Making sure that rise and recline chairs, like the Arene, are covered in vinyl is an easy step to take in improving infection control.

Antimicrobial surfaces have been designed and manufactured to inhibit the growth of microorganisms that are in contact with the surface. These materials are a great way of preventing bacteria from festering on equipment, and therefore reducing the risk of equipment carrying infectious microorganisms.

Mattresses can be covered with antimicrobial material to achieve good levels of infection control. Some patients or residents may spend a lot of time in bed, or indeed they may be bedbound altogether. By having a mattress with an antimicrobial cover, healthcare environments are reducing the chance of cross-infection between users or between the carer and individual. Every mattress in the Somlent range is covered with a polyurethane film coating that is antimicrobial, and they’re machine washable at 60°C.

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Welded Seams

Tradition sewn seams are a great spot for bacteria to grow in. The stitches themselves and the holes they create in the fabric are ideal spots for infection to fester because they’re very difficult to clean. Ultrasonic welding uses high-frequency vibrations to melt or weld surfaces together. In terms of medical equipment, the welding process is carried out in a sterile environment and the materials are measured accurately to make sure that the seams are welded perfectly with no gaps or shortfalls. Ultrasonic welding is also much quicker than normal adhesives or stitching, and it doesn’t take much drying time.

Developments in technology over the last decade or so has given us the ability to use ultrasonic welding to create practically impenetrable seams. From hospital gowns to mattress covers, welded seams are used to provide a strong bond between different materials that is less likely to tear. It also means that there are no stitches or holes that could possibly harbour bacteria and become contaminated. All seams on our mattresses are welded for the best levels of infection control.

Patient Hoisting

Although it may not be the first thing you think of, ceiling hoist tracking is also a common place for bacteria to grow and can easily be contaminated if not cleaned on a regular basis. Traditional tracking hangs from the ceiling, leaving space for dust to settle on the top of the rail. However, inset tracking is built into the ceiling meaning that the risk of contamination is significantly reduced. There is no space for dust to sit on top, and it doesn’t need cleaning as often; it’s win-win situation!

Another option would be the Integralift hidden hoist system. This handy hoisting system can be manufactured as a complete bed head unit, and the materials can include HPL (high pressure laminate), which is very easy to clean.

St Andrews Integralift Over Chair

Stainless Steel

This is particularly relevant for healthcare environments that are looking at maintaining high levels of infection control in a hydrotherapy pool. Typically, hydrotherapy pools have been tiled – much like a standard swimming pool. Yet bacteria and microorganisms can grow in the grouted fractions around the tiles. We see this when the grout becomes discoloured and there may even be mould there.

Stainless steel eradicates this problem. There are no cracks for infection to take hold of, and stainless steel is much easier to clean than tiling. Our stainless steel hydrotherapy pools are built using a unique method that combines mechanical anchorages and cold welding. This means that the sheets of steel are unperforated, which is a common problem with traditional welding techniques. This means there’s a significantly reduced chance of any material degradation or holes opening up.

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We all know that infection control is a top priority across healthcare; maintaining good levels of infection control will help to save money in the long-run and provide a better standard of care. From beds and chairs, to hoists and pools, there are lots of ways to minimise contamination and infection. These materials and methods regarding healthcare equipment are just a few options, but they offer a multitude of benefits.