In addition to removing the barriers of denial based on pre-existing conditions and providing subsidized access to health care for millions of Americans, another of the chief tenets of the Affordable Care Act is tying reimbursements to health outcomes. Patients who heal up better are less likely to require additional care, and in turn reflect more efficient delivery of care, which places an emphasis on reducing the rates of infection associated with hospital stays.

In America, hospital-related infections like MRSA, VRE, and C diff. kill more than 100,000 hospital patients a year and infect another 2 million annually, said Morris Miller, CEO of Xenex Disinfection Services. Perhaps most cruelly of all, the symptoms associated with such illnesses are unrelentingly painful.

In any health care setting, housekeeping staff is the front line against hospital-acquired infections. Its task is to clean the room. Yet, housekeepers can only clear the rooms of Screen Shot 2016-05-04 at 3.49.24 PMthe substances that they can see – and half the surfaces that contain those pathogens are often difficult to reach through hand-cleaning methods alone. When infectious superbugs that can put patients at fatal risk aren’t cleaned off, those germs can live in the environment for months at a time, Miller said.

“It became very apparent to us that the majority of these infections are actually caused by the environment,” he said. “It’s making the patient sick and we can actually solve the problem.

“If you could fill the room up like a bathtub with a [dis- infectant] chemical and let it sit there for 10 minutes, I bet it would work,” Miller said. “But you can’t.”

Instead, Xenex began testing products developed around the principles of germicidal photonics. Short- wave ultraviolet light deactivates the DNA of bacteria, viruses, and similar pathogens, destroying their ability to reproduce, and killing them when they attempt to do so. The company developed a xenon-based lamp that pulses across the entire spectrum of germicidal UV light waves. Housed within a shopping-cart-sized device that enables it to be pushed from floor to floor to clean hospital rooms with an automated cycle, Xenex christened its devices “germ-zapping robots,” and developed cleaning patterns to make sure that every surface in the room is “zapped” free of pathogens.

“If it can be seen, it can be cleaned,” Miller said. “Anything that’s not visible, move it, flip it, run it while you go get the linens; it’s finished, and now the room is ready, cleaned, and disinfected.”

After demonstrating the concept to a handful of hospitals, Xenex ran follow-up research that yielded conclusive results. In 2011, MD Anderson Cancer Center showed that the technology completely eliminated all instances of VRE in a test environment. Another study at the Central Texas Veterans Health Care System in 2015 showed that bleach-free cleaning with Xenex removed 95 percent of C. diff spores versus the 70 percent of C. diff spores removed with bleach cleaning alone. At Trinity Medical Center in Birmingham, Alabama, Xenex helped reduce surgical site infections by 100 percent.

In all, a dozen peer-reviewed studies describing the efficacy of the technology have been published in scientific journals of infection control, infection prevention, and hospital epidemiology, each making the case for Xenex in real-world hospital environments.

“The housekeepers become the heroes of the hospital because you’re giving them a tool that can help them solve the problem,” Miller said. “When you think about a 50-, 70-, or 100-percent drop in infection rates, 1.4 million of the 2 million don’t have to get those infections, and maybe 50,000, 75,000 people don’t have to die.”

In addition to helping patients avoid infection, Xenex technology also helps hospitals save money. The 23 infections that Trinity Medical estimates the devices helped prevent also kept the center from spending another $460,000 in car- ing for sick patients. In comparison, the annual cost of a Xenex robot is about $40,000 across three years, Miller said.

Martin Health System in Florida has four Xenex Germ-Zapping Robots. Michael Romano, M.D., inpatient medical director with Martin Health Physician Group, said Martin Health is “doing everything within our means to reduce the risk of infection, and believe these robots will play a significant role.”

Screen Shot 2016-05-04 at 3.49.07 PM“It underscores our commitment to patient care and the community we serve,” Romano said.

Central Valley Specialty Hospital (CVSH) is the first long-term acute care (LTAC) facility in California to use the new LightStrike Xenex robot. At CVSH, it is used in patient rooms, restrooms, equipment and procedure rooms, the gym, dining rooms and pharmacy.

“We want to do everything within our means to provide a clean environment to reduce the risk of infections,” said Gia Smith, RN, MSN, Chief Executive Officer of CVSH. “We are designed to provide care to medically complex patients, and we want to ensure that we provide them with a healing environment.”

Xenex is working on the fifth version of its robot design in three-and-a-half years. The latest iterations of the devices connect with a web-based portal that allows customers
to examine their progress in action. Next up is an expansion of Xenex technology to a global customer base that includes health centers in Spain, England, and South Africa.

“It’s being used constantly,” Miller said. “It’s something we’re able to pursue every day, and we know that it works.”