LED Tailor's disinfection box. Image courtesy of Crystal IS
Hospitals do a lot to kill microbes, but there is a gap in disinfection coverage, said Nick Connelly, application engineer for Crystal IS. “There is a missing layer of protection,” he said, pointing to high-touch surfaces and equipment in healthcare settings such as keyboards. “Consider all the devices being used, including roll-in devices and medication carts.”
In addition to using a range of chemical-based disinfectants, hospitals are looking to UV light as a disinfection solution. But some of these UV-light emitting devices, such as mercury lamps, can consume a lot of power and are not environmentally safe, Connelly said, and may not be cost effective for wide use. It may also be a challenge to move devices around hospitals for disinfection in a timely manner.
At BIOMEDevice San Jose 2018, Crystal IS, an Asahi Kasei company, presented an alternative: high-performance deep ultraviolet (UVC) LEDs launched in 2016 under the name Klaran. The company creates LEDs from an aluminum nitride substrate that can emit UV light in the 260-270 nm wavelength, which inactivates viruses and bacteria. “If you consider how powerful the light is at a particular wavelength, [the Klaran LEDs] are three times more powerful than that of our competitors,” Connelly said. “In 30 seconds, the LEDs can kill over 99% of C. difficile.”
Crystal IS can help customers implement such LEDs into point-of-care disinfection modules in a much smaller footprint than those of traditional UV lamps, enabling development of portable devices.
“UVC LEDs can be easily integrated directly into portable infection prevention equipment,” Connelly told MD+DI. “It all depends on what you are trying to disinfect. Is it a bed, a tablet, or an air duct, for instance?”
UVC LED use can also be traceable and trackable, providing data on disinfection. "Understanding the level of disinfection and tracking who is performing the task and where it is being done not only decreases the risk of HAIs but also allows hospital administrators to connect disinfection protocols to patient outcomes," he explained. "According to a presentation by Yale University at a 2018 IUVA conference, hospitals are looking to improve their disinfection protocols, but it is imperative to understand the level of disinfection and make the data quantifiable. Traceability and trackability are essential for the implementation of UVC LEDs in healthcare facilities to quantify the impact of this new technology.
“Crystal IS has been working closely with customers in the healthcare space since 2013, gaining a better understanding of the challenges engineers face with medical device design and their goals for incorporating point-of-use disinfection technology into their products,” Connelly continued. “By engaging with our customers early, we have been able to develop a more collaborative approach to product development. UVC LED technology will be rolling out in multiple medical products across a number of healthcare facilities in 2019, so now is great time to be at the very front of this ‘digital cleaning’ trend.”
In 2018, companies began using or testing prototypes of products designed with Klaran HC LEDs. For example, Finnish company LED Tailor developed its WiSDOM DS product, which is a file cabinet style disinfection equipment. LED Tailor also installed a WiSDOM DS surface disinfection box at Turku University Hospital (TYKS), Salo Hospital, for disinfecting blood pressure monitors and cuffs, tourniquets, thermometers, heating pads, mobile phones, keys, pens, and pen holders.
U.S.-based innovator FLOORX has developed floor tiles that integrate UVC LEDs to disinfect the soles of shoes in high-risk areas of the hospital. Showcased at the spring 2018 APIC show, FLOORX plans to have its floor tiles in hospitals in the coming months, Connelly said.