Healthcare professionals are at the front-line of patient care, ensuring safety through infection control. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention advise, ‘Cleaning is the necessary first step of any sterilization or disinfection process.' Providing healthcare professionals with traditional data collection hardware is not enough. Products must be designed specifically to withstand the regular cleaning required to properly address the infection control needs of the healthcare industry.
Data collection hardware is traditionally housed in amorphous plastics. These plastics, including polycarbonate/acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene (PC/ABS), are usually chosen because they can be easily manufactured. Housings made of PC/ABS contain a loosely packed structure which makes it easier for chemicals to penetrate the plastic. Repeated use of chemical cleansers, as recommended by the CDC for infection control, ‘may cause discoloration, swelling, hardening, and cracking of rubber and certain plastics after prolonged and repeated use.' Cracks can also lead to hardware failure. Hardware failure increases the total cost of ownership by causing increased downtime and repair/replacement costs. More serious consequences, such as the corrosion of electronic circuitry and electrical fires, can also occur.
There is a current trend towards the use of antimicrobial-impregnated materials in healthcare products. These products are marketed as inhibiting the growth of mold and bacteria on the product's surface for the life of the product. Honeywell has considered the use of anti-microbial impregnated plastics for our scanner housings. Although any added protection towards the growth of mold and bacteria is intriguing, it does not replace the need for valid hygienic practices to maintain proper infection control. Data collection hardware made with anti-microbial impregnated plastics still need to be routinely cleaned in the healthcare environment.
Solution: Disinfectant-Ready Housings
Society is more germ-conscious than ever. Effective infection control policy requires the cleaning and disinfecting of environmental surfaces, regardless of whether or not they contain anti-microbial additives. Healthcare end users must address this increasing concern over infectious agents that cause disease or illness, leading to the use of strong cleaners to disinfect their data collection hardware.