Your medical facility is dedicated to patient safety, comfort and well being. You're dedicated to providing an exceptional patient experience while keeping your patient satisfaction and retention rates high. But what if your medical scrubs and hospital linens aren't being properly cleaned? Even the most pleasant facility is no match for a high incidence of healthcare-associated infections (HAIs).
When patients visit your medical facility, there may be harmful pathogens. Even though you work exceptionally hard to keep your facility clean and safe, microorganisms lurk where you least expect them. Medical scrubs, hospital gowns, healthcare linens and other textiles can act as reservoirs for harmful viruses and bacteria.
To thwart the attacks of these immune invaders, you use a medical laundry service that takes your soiled hospital linens, cleans them and returns them to your medical facility. But how clean are the medical scrubs, gowns and linens you're getting back? If you’re being told the highest standard of the service is "hygienically clean," think twice before stepping into those scrubs or offering that gown to your patient.
What does "hygienically clean" really mean?
It turns out that the term "hygienically clean" is virtually meaningless. It's just a label – no solid definitions or standards exist to clarify the meaning of this commonly used term. The description most often agreed upon is as follows:
"The product has been cleaned enough to remove most of the pathogens, and the remaining pathogens shouldn't be able to make a person sick."
This definition comes as little solace to medical facility personnel and patients who rely on a medical laundry service to provide clean, pathogen-free hospital linens. If there's no satisfactory answer to what "hygienically clean" means, there's no real way to know if a product is clean enough to prevent HAIs.
What does “hygienically clean” mean for patient safety?
Pathogens are hearty survivors, and some of the culprits of major infections are more resilient than you'd think. MRSA is a serious HAI caused by Staphylococcus aureus, a particularly virulent strain that's developed multiple resistances to antibiotics. If it's not effectively eliminated, it can survive on common surfaces for up to 90 days.
When your medical scrubs, hospital gowns and healthcare linens haven't been cleaned correctly (or have been given a pseudo-cleaning to meet “hygienically clean” standards), you give dangerous pathogens a place to rest. Each exposure is another chance to contract and spread infections. With high patient loads, any medical facility with merely "hygienically clean" textiles is susceptible to contamination.
Patients undergoing surgical procedures or long-term care are particularly vulnerable to contracting an HAI from your poorly cleaned hospital gowns and linens. They visit your medical facility frequently, and their immune systems are compromised – the perfect opportunity for microorganisms to seize. According to multiple studies cited by the Association of Perioperative Nurses (AORN), evidence bears out quite clearly that healthcare textiles can be a transmission source for HAIs.
Is there a better alternative to “hygienically clean?”
The evidence is clear: Medical textiles are dangerous sources of bacterial and viral transmission when cleaned improperly. It's also apparent that “hygienically clean” is a meaningless term that does more harm than good in regards to textile cleanliness. So what should your medical facility do to further prevent infection and improve patient satisfaction?
Find a medical laundry service that sanitizes your soiled medical scrubs and hospital linens. The EPA sets a clear, concise and measurable definition for what constitutes “sanitized” – it means that a 99.9% reduction of bacteria has been achieved. Therefore, steer clear of laundry providers that promise to wash your scrubs under ambiguous and unchecked “hygienically clean” guidelines.
Your focus is always on patient health, and you shouldn't be deterred. But if your medical laundry service is only providing you with “hygienically clean” garments, you're unknowingly putting your patients and personnel at risk.