UV Disinfection of Medical Equipment: Interview with Jeremy Starkweather, President of UV-Concepts

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With the COVID-19 pandemic set to continue for the foreseeable future, efforts to deal with the virus in healthcare facilities are of the utmost importance. Reducing viral transmission will protect patients and clinicians alike. A key part of this is disinfecting frequently touched surfaces, including those of portable medical equipment such as wheelchairs.

Medgadget recently featured the UV-C Enclosure from UV-Concepts, an Englewood, Colorado firm. The device acts to disinfect medical equipment through short wavelength UV light, and can process even large items such as a wheelchair. Along with SARS-CoV-2, the system is also useful in reducing the transmission of drug-resistant bacteria within healthcare facilities.

Unlike conventional disinfection procedures, there is no need for chemicals, specialized rooms, or manual scrubbing. Staff can simply wheel equipment into the unit, close the door and then wait a short period for disinfection to take place. Once complete, the equipment is ready to be used once again.

The device is conceived as creating minimal disruption in busy hospitals. UV-Concepts has recently signed a distribution deal with Hytech Ireland to bring the UV-C Enclosure to Ireland and UK.

Here’s a video about the technology:

Medgadget had the opportunity to talk to Jeremy Starkweather, President, UV-Concepts, about the technology.

Conn Hastings, Medgadget: Please give us an overview of the challenges facing healthcare facilities in terms of disinfecting frequently touched surfaces and PPE during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jeremy Starkweather, UV-Concepts: Disinfection of personal protection equipment (PPE) is a specific issue related to the COVID-19 pandemic, but well before the emergence of the pandemic there were recognized challenges with the disinfection of high touch surfaces and portable medical equipment (PME) in the healthcare setting.

As early as the 1980s, infection control experts linked pathogens on the wheels of a wheelchair as the vector of transmission from one hospital ward to another. Their observation was then quantified into two separate studies published in 2014 and 2018 which showed high rates of contamination on wheelchairs in a hospital environment; the first study found as much as 47 percent of the wheelchairs harbored C. difficile and MRSA – two strains of bacteria that can cause difficult-to-treat, if not life-threatening, infections in humans. Other researchers have identified multiple variabilities associated with the manual disinfection of PME; and following the results of another analysis, a team in Canada recommended improved management and protocols with dedicated personnel working on process management.

Wheelchairs are just one example of the many high-touch pieces of equipment that move from multiple treatment areas and sensitive environments that can be a potential vector of transmission for infectious pathogens. Based on the clear evidence that a problem existed with the disinfection of PME, our team at UV-Concepts spent years developing an ecosystem solution comprised of the UV-C Enclosure (UVE™), digital tags and a cloud-based process management program. We’ve developed a broader strategy for the process and quality improvement of PME disinfection protocols that before the pandemic had unique utility, have tremendous utility now for the disinfection of PPE during the pandemic, and will continue to have utility well after the pandemic.

Medgadget: What techniques are currently used to disinfect equipment and PPE? What limitations are associated with such techniques?

Jeremy Starkweather: The current disinfection standard, which uses the manual wipe down method for cleaning PME is inadequate, difficult to repeat and lacks rigorous protocol management. If performed perfectly, it is effective, but when you bring in sole reliance on the human factors related to the manual process, repeatability is impossible because you are dealing with potentially hundreds of healthcare personnel trying to do the same thing every single time, consistently. Reporting and tracking becomes difficult with the manual process; there are just too many variables involved with measuring the effectiveness of the manual wipe down of PME – the amount of pressure applied while wiping; intensity and frequency of wiping; ratio between the disinfectant and size of the cleaning cloth; types of pathogens, etc.

We’re also now seeing use of supplemental disinfecting technologies, such as electrostatic sprayers, but these alternative applications still require the appropriate application of disinfection solution, the users to don PPE and a workspace to be shut down in order to implement; this results in the disruption to a busy workflow environment.

The UVE™ brings a level of automation, repeatability, and absolute consistency to the disinfection process. When you bring in technology that is automated you can also automate the reporting of that technology, which provides accountability to whatever protocol is used.

Medgadget: Please give us an overview of the UV-C Enclosure. How does UV light compare with other disinfection techniques?

Jeremy Starkweather: For its size, the UVE™ is the fastest and most powerful UV-C technology in healthcare due to the dosage of UV light that it delivers within a 60-second disinfection cycle. UV light is only effective if you can deliver the correct dosage to a surface, and that’s what the UVE™ does well. By completely surrounding PME within a fully-enclosed, highly-reflective space the size of a photo booth, the UVE™ delivers a very precise dose into areas that would normally be challenging for traditional UV light systems.

Due to the novel design, the UVE™ requires a shorter cycle time vs. other disinfection technologies, such as chemical disinfectants, hydrogen peroxide vapor, misting units or electrostatic spraying units. These are effective platforms for certain applications but require much longer cycle times and chemical dwell times.  

Another distinction of the UVE™ platform: It can be used directly within an active work environment without disrupting daily workflow because it protects the outside environment from the disinfecting technology during the 60-second, automated cycle. A lot of other techniques either require you to seal off a room, and have special ventilation, plumbing or electricity. That creates downtime in workflow efficiency because you may need to keep a room free of anything or any living person for an extended period of time.

Medgadget: Is the system easy to use? How long does a disinfection cycle take?

Jeremy Starkweather: If you can open a hotel room with a key card you can run the UVE™; the system is that easy to use and training can be done in minutes. It is as simple as walking up to the unit, swiping an authorized RFID badge, putting the PME in for a 60-second cycle, remove the equipment, and logout. That’s it.

Medgadget: Is there an issue with disinfecting equipment areas that do not receive direct light while inside the unit, such as shaded areas? How is this issue addressed by the system?

Jeremy Starkweather: Direct exposure to UV light is essential for disinfecting equipment, but the most important areas that need to receive light are the ones that are touched by hands, such as the handles on medical equipment or keyboards. We focus on exposing these high-touch areas of equipment with a UV-C dose that is powerful enough to kill even the most drug-resistant microorganisms. The UVE™ delivers about 380 mJ/cm2 of UV-C at 60 seconds, and in about 200 seconds, it delivers 1,000 mJ/cm2 of UV-C.

We measure the UV-C dose from the middle of the UVE™, which is the furthest distance away from the light sources. So, we know the exact dosage in the center of the UVE™, and that gives us the confidence that anything closer to the lamps is receiving potentially an even higher dose.

Medgadget: How will the Hytech distribution deal help with the COVID-19 response in Ireland and the UK?

Jeremy Starkweather: We are partnering with Hytech because they understand the infection control prevention space and they understand the benefits of implementing novel UV-C technologies to address a systemic problem. Every healthcare facility in the world uses the same manual disinfection process and the environment doesn’t change whether you’re in the U.S. or Ireland. We’re delighted to be aligning with a capable partner with expertise in the infection control space so we can multiply our effort to address the challenges in a different geographical market.

Our distribution deal with Hytech represents much more than a response specific to COVID. The pandemic has heightened everyone’s awareness and sensitivity to a problem that has always existed in the healthcare environment; the surfaces of equipment that are moving in and out of treatment areas need to be disinfected reliably with an automated, repeatable process.

Link: UV-Concepts homepage…

Flashback: UV-C Enclosure to Disinfect Medical and Personal Protective Equipment





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