Reusable medical devices help control cost and reduce medical waste, but by the very nature of reusing them they pose health concerns. The Spaulding Classification was originally developed in the 1950s and classifies medical devices into three categories based on how the device is used and how the device comes into contact with the body.
There are three classifications: Critical, semi-critical and noncritical devices. Critical devices, such as surgical forceps, come in contact with blood or normally sterile tissue and pose a high risk for infection if contaminated. Semi-critical devices are those that come in contact with mucus membranes, such as medical instrument blades. Finally, non-critical devices come into contact with unbroken skin, such as stethoscopes. Critical and semi-critical devices must go through thorough cleaning and disinfection or sterilization between uses.
Outpatient facilities perform countless exams where medical devices such as stethoscopes, otoscopes, ophthalmoscopes, penlights, abdominal ultrasound probes and blood pressure cuffs are routinely reused. However, because these tools are used on unbroken skin, they are classified as non-critical devices and are therefore not required to go through a full sterilization between uses. This is a good example for where UVC LEDs can serve as an alternative for sterilization by providing fast, dependable disinfection between patients to reduce the risk of infection.
UVC LED technology has opened the door to new infection prevention devices in healthcare, and third-party testing now supports new applications for preventing the spread of HAIs. It is not by itself the “silver bullet” to end all infections, but rather a new tool to be incorporated into a bundled approach to achieving zero recordable infections performed in a hospital or patient care facility. Strict compliance around hand hygiene and prudent use of antibiotics have made significant inroads to reducing HAIs. Taking the next step forward in infection prevention requires going back to the tried-and-true approach of that was once first developed more than 100 years ago.