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A Manufacturer’s Guideline for a Safe Hospital Environment in Times of Pandemic

Shajan M George, Sr Director Sales – Pvt Network at R&M India

In his guidance column, Shajan M George, Sr Director Sales – Pvt Network at R&M India, outlines how communication systems and data networks enable hospitals to provide infection protection and secure data connections at the passive connectivity level.

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During the pandemic time, many were advised to stay away from hospitals if people had no serious reason to visit the hospitals and there is a reason behind it. The risk of hospital-acquired infections cannot be overestimated. Even in countries with the most advanced hygiene standards, nosocomial infections, or healthcare-associated infections (HCAI) as they are also known, are by far the most common infectious disease. In countries with higher incomes, the rate is 7%, in countries with low to medium incomes 10% and at times even 19%. HCAI are one of the top ten causes of death.

Given the recent increase in health risks and hygiene requirements worldwide, suppliers of hospital equipment have been tasked to meet these challenges. If multi-resistant pathogens can settle around patients’ beds, all possible countermeasures should be taken.

Also read: Healthcare System is Moving from ‘Going Digital’ to ‘Being Digital’: Apollo Hospitals, Vice President, Gaurav Loria

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Appropriately treated IT and network technology can contribute to reducing the risk of nosocomial infection. Patch cords and data outlets are among the components touched daily by patients and hospital staff. Conventional cabling technology does not reduce the risk of cross-infection at these locations and relies solely on cleaning.

Cross-infection from a hospital bed is not a rare occurrence. Pathogens are lurking everywhere, particularly in hospitals. Dangerous microbes can also settle on outlets and cables around hospital beds. It is a matter of life and health. This has put hospital equipment suppliers under pressure where they have to provide products that are resistant to such microbes. This was a good reason for network equipment supplier companies to contribute to patients’ safety with antimicrobially treated products aiding the healthcare sector.

Hospitals have to be able to fully rely on their network technology. Cables and outlets connect the monitoring and diagnostic devices at a patient’s bed with computers in the ward control centre or operating room. Information from patient rooms and wards must be continuously exchanged with the hospital’s administration and data centre. Without IT and secure local data networks, hospitals cannot maintain operations. In addition, there is a growing need for rapid data exchange with health authorities and research institutes.

What are the possibilities of antimicrobially equipping inconspicuous but essential components, such as patch cords and network outlets, and providing more security for both patients and networks?

Organisations supplying products for the healthcare sector took up this question some time ago and equipped their products with an antimicrobial additive. The additive is mixed into the plastic during the manufacturing process and cannot be rubbed or wiped off. It inhibits the colonization of microbes on the plastic parts of network products in accordance with ISO 22196. The latest results also demonstrate effectiveness in shortening the survival time of some viruses (Example: Norovirus) on the surface of protected products. Such products take away the ability of microbes to survive on the surface of a product by preventing them from growing or replicating. Therefore they die out over time.

This effectively reduces the risk of infection at a patient’s bed, as well as in kitchens, laboratories and other rooms with increased hygiene requirements. The products can be used without specific restrictions. Irrespective of this, hospitals must of course still comply with their established disinfection schemes as these products are not a substitute for regular cleaning.

Standards such as IEC 60601-1-1 require additional protection for operating rooms. At sensitive places of use, medical devices and data networks have to be galvanically separated to protect patients, devices and sensors from possible over voltage. It can be plugged into LAN outlets in a few simple steps and saves on expensive medical technology accessories. The dielectric strength is 4 kV AC. Furthermore, hospitals have to ensure that the operation of medical, administrative and multimedia applications is separated at a physical level. The highest level of the security system locks plug connections and prevents improper or erroneous plugging in and unplugging. Only authorised people can open the locks.

Even wet rooms and areas with harsh environmental conditions can be reliably connected to the local data network. For this purpose, retrofittable protective sleeves for RJ45 connectors can be developed. Areas of use are laboratories and operating rooms, outpatient clinics, supply stations for fluids as well as outdoor areas with access control and video monitoring. The Splash Line rubber grommet provides protection against splashing water, cleaning agents and dust. It satisfies the requirements of protection class IP54. The IP67 plastic sleeve guarantees even more security. It protects connections underwater as well as providing protection against shocks and impacts. Grid clamps prevent connectors from being pulled out by mistake. This portfolio enables hospitals to provide both infection protection and secure data connections at the passive connectivity level.

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