Preventing patients from developing infections should be a prime concern for all involved in the health care facility. One strategy facility managers can take in this task is to specify textiles with antimicrobial properties. However, it’s important to understand their infection-fighting capabilities before purchasing decisions are made. In the following article, David White, vice president and general manager for Pallas Textiles, a wholly owned subsidiary of KI based in Green Bay, WI, discusses properties of antimicrobial textiles.
Hospitals are where we go when we need essential medical treatment. They deliver important and lifesaving care, but according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), approximately two million people annually develop infections while staying in hospitals in the United States. The Consumers Union estimates that 90,000 people die from these infections each year. Even more troubling is the fact that the situation is becoming more acute. The CDC says the chance of developing an infection while in the hospital is up 36% during the last 20 years.
Hospital administrators, physicians, and staff are working diligently to attack this problem. At the same time, several states are considering laws that would require hospitals to publish infection rates as a method for consumers to compare the risk from institution to institution. A troubling element of the statistics is that they may be misleading. Data indicates that the most technologically advanced research and teaching hospitals also have the highest rate of patient infections. Researchers believe this is because these facilities treat the sickest patients.
There are no quick answers to the issue of reducing hospital infections. With the concern about antibiotic-resistant strains growing, hospitals need to take every possible step to reduce the presence of bacteria. The necessary proactive steps to fight infection-causing bacteria are labor intensive and costly. Through scientific advancements developed by the textile industry, hospital facility managers can join the battle by specifying antimicrobial fabrics for hospital furnishings.
What Can Antimicrobial Materials Do?
Antimicrobial fabrics aid in the fight to reduce the number of infections among hospital patients by preventing bacteria from surviving or growing on specially manufactured textiles used for seating and other surfaces. By making these surfaces inhospitable to bacteria, the potential places for germs to hide are greatly reduced.
Textile manufacturers have been working to continually enhance antimicrobial fabrics for health care facilities. Pallas Textiles offers both Crypton Super Fabrics and Gore Seating Protection backed by research results proving the antimicrobial effectiveness of the fabrics.
There are two misconceptions that exist in the market regarding antimicrobial fabrics. The first is that these fabrics actually kill bacteria. The fact is that while they do not kill germs, they make it difficult for bacteria to grow and survive.
The second misconception is that the antimicrobial properties quickly wear off during normal usage. Advancements in antimicrobial textiles allow today’s fabrics to retain antimicrobial benefits for years with proper maintenance. Textile makers immerse the fabric during the manufacturing process to give the fabric its antimicrobial properties. Lifestyle usage tests completed by the manufacturer, which simulate normal use over a period of several years, indicate antimicrobial properties remain as long as the users follow care instructions.
Hospitals following the maintenance and cleaning instructions recommended by the manufacturer will not only preserve the look and feel of the textile, they will also maintain the antimicrobial properties of the fabric. In most cases, germicidal detergents offer the best combination of bacteria fighting and fabric cleaning qualities.
The battle to reduce the patient risk of getting an infection during a hospital stay must be a collaborative effort involving everyone associated with health care delivery. Textile makers and furniture suppliers are doing their part through continued research and the use of antimicrobial fabrics.