HEALTH

How a germ zapping robot is helping reduce hospital infections

BY Leah Mishkin, Correspondent |

When two buttons are pushed, people have 15 to 30 seconds to leave the room before the Xenex robot – temporarily named Jimi – begins a treatment cycle.

The company behind Jimi and the LightStrike technology says it’s using pulsed xenon to create this UV-C light.

Unlike UV-A and UV-B, which are known for damaging skin, UV-C is mostly absorbed by the ozone layer and doesn’t reach Earth. Xenex says superbugs, germs, and bacteria have no resistance to it, and they die in five minutes or less.

“It actually will not harm people, it will not penetrate your skin, if you’re in the room though, the light as we mentioned, it’s super intense, super bright, and so if you stare at it for a long time it could irritate your eyes,” said Michael Walker, business development manager for Xenex LightStrike Robots.

According to a National Institutes of Health study, long-term exposure to UV-C could be harmful by causing acute and chronic eye and skin damage. This robot has motion sensors and won’t even turn on if it detects people.

Hunterdon Medical Center‘s Lisa Rasimowicz says her overall role is to prevent the spread of infection.

“The thing about hospitals is that there are sick patients here, so it is possible that as you’re sick, as your immune system is weak, if you do get exposed to someone else’s germs that potentially you could pick up another infection,” she said, “but we in the health care field have been working on this forever.”

Enter Jimi, the hospital’s second robot. They bought it after seeing a drop in hospital acquired infections.

“We’ve already seen in the short time that we have been using the robot in the ICU, we’ve already seen at least a 55 percent decrease in our c. diff. cases. We also have had zero MRSA infections in our ICU patients. We’ve had zero central line bloodstream infections in our ICU patients, so we’re really achieving, we’re setting the goal we’ve set for ourselves,” Rasimowicz said.

It costs about $125,000, but the company says by preventing just a couple of infections it pays for itself.

“We’re looking at application in college, professional sports programs. We’re looking at airports. We’re looking at everything,” Walker said.

Technology helping to prevent the spread of what is left behind.