Being in medical devices for over 20 years, I naturally have a heightened awareness when stepping foot into a healthcare facility. But it was when my wife contracted an HAI last year that deepened my desire to better understand the complex interactions between patients, healthcare workers, and infection-causing pathogens that reside on portable medical equipment (PME).

How do facilities ensure that every patient interacts with properly-disinfected PME? How do they implement a process that is consistent, effective, measurable, and repeatable? Who’s responsible for this and are they being empowered to be more accountable?

Think of endoscope reprocessing 20 years ago before the widespread adoption of automated endoscope reprocessors (AERs). Endoscope manufacturers only had recommendations on manual cleaning and a manual Cidex soak for disinfection. Today every GI lab in the U.S. follows a strict pre-cleaning process followed by high-level disinfection using an AER. Think of the lack of hand hygiene protocols for patients and healthcare workers from 15 years ago. Now you can’t walk more than 100 feet in a hospital without seeing an antibacterial hand sanitizer dispenser.

So to the question of “Who’s accountable for the disinfection of PME?”, my answer is EVERYONE. Equipment managers, patient transporters, nurses, EVS, IP, basically anyone in the healthcare value chain that interfaces with PME plays a role. Although a healthcare worker cannot control whether their colleagues followed proper cleaning protocols, what they can control is the process when items are in their possession. This is where the understanding of “vectors of transmission” and “multi-disciplinary accountability” comes into play. Healthcare facilities need to partner with industry to help them challenge their existing paradigms and explore more adjunctive measures for their existing PME disinfection processes.