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BEST PRACTICES: The Who, What, Why & How to Surface Disinfection

BEST PRACTICES: The Who, What, Why & How to Surface Disinfection

Who is Responsible?
Designate an individual who is primarily responsible for cleaning and disinfecting environmental surfaces and medical equipment. During hours of operation, it may be one designated staffer who regularly cleans or replaces high-traffic and patient-facing surfaces, such as doorknobs, faucets, waiting rooms, toys, check-in pens, counters and even the sides of patient tables/beds where they may place their hands for leverage in standing up. After hours, it may be outside contractors. Regardless, they must be trained and regularly reminded.

Which Cleaning Products?
A wide range of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) - registered infection control cleaning products are available, specifically for use in healthcare facilities to break the cycle of germ transmission. In choosing which products are appropriate for your office, the main criteria are often cost, safety, product-surface compatibility and employee compliance. Choices typically include ready-to-use (RTU) sprays or wipes. For intermediate-level disinfection areas, bleach-based or hydrogen peroxide-based disinfectant wipes or sprays are effective against a wide range of microorganisms. Low-level disinfection areas – with hard, nonporous surfaces – are lower-risk areas for spreading infections and can be cleaned with a gentler, quaternary disinfectant cleaner. Check OSHA guidelines for specific recommendations, and closely follow the manufacturers' instructions for product use – paying special attention to the recommended dwell times required to kill specific microorganisms.

How Often Should Cleaning Occur?
While it is important to be diligent and consistent in your surface cleaning regimen, the frequency of cleaning will vary depending on the type of items and their location. Patient rooms and other intermediate-level disinfection areas, where the most interaction with patients and others occur, must be disinfected more often than low-level disinfection areas. The former – which would include patient-care areas, medication prep rooms and bathrooms – should be cleaned at least once each day; of course, if an area is particularly busy, known to have had direct contact with blood, diarrhea or vomit, or is visibly soiled, it should be cleaned after the patient has used it. The latter – which would include low-risk items like waiting room tables or computer keyboards – may be cleaned less frequently than daily unless it is known to be contaminated.

Regardless of the type of cleaning/disinfection being done, the staff member conducting the cleaning must take adequate safety precautions. That may include wearing gloves and/or surgical masks or procedural masks depending on the product being used and the area being cleaned; check the cleaning products' label for specific instructions.

Spend Money to Save Money

While accelerating the frequency and thoroughness of environmental surface disinfection in doctors' offices may result in added expenses for proper cleaning products and supplies, those costs are surely not as daunting as the financial burden that a facility incurs when an outbreak occurs. For example, a serious outbreak of a highly-contagious disease can lead to increased costs, staffing shortages, and reduced revenues at the impacted facility.