The outbreak of COVID-19 has made the development of improved medical technologies and practices more important than ever. One of the most discussed topics in the world today is infection prevention, not only in hospitals or medical facilities but in our everyday experiences.
MIDI Medical Product Development is uniquely positioned to address this important issue, having worked in infection prevention even prior to the current pandemic and in development generally for over forty-five years. In the first part of the new MIDI Innovation Vault™ series, MIDI co-owner and President Christopher Montalbano discusses the state of infection prevention as an area of interest up to this point and the actions that must be taken to respond to new demands brought by COVID-19. Responding to these needs will be critical in the ongoing struggle to minimize the impact of this potentially fatal disease as much as possible.
In healthcare settings like hospitals and assisted living facilities, infection prevention has always been a high-priority issue. Chris explains that this is due to the existence of “hospital-acquired infections,” or HAIs, which are infections caused by pathogens that thrive in healthcare environments such as E. coli, C. diff, Candida, and MRSA. The spread of these infections can have negative consequences for patients and healthcare facilities alike. One such consequence is the significant financial burden that these infections can pose to medical centers. The national average cost to cure HAIs per hospital, per year is around $900,000. While these infections are being treated, the opportunity cost of the bed being occupied averages around $125,000 per patient. Beyond this, hospitals can face liability lawsuits, issues with insurance, and reductions in their annual Medicare reimbursement. More important than these financial issues, however, are the issues that HAIs pose to those who are being treated within these facilities. The patients most at risk for catching HAIs are those with weakened immune systems, who are often immunocompromised specifically due to the treatment they receive at medical facilities. These individuals are not only at the greatest risk of contracting these illnesses but are the most vulnerable to them as well, meaning that infection could potentially result in death. Because of this, preventing their exposure to harmful hospital-borne pathogens is of the utmost priority.
Examining HAIs, their consequences and the solutions currently used to stop their spread, can teach us valuable lessons about infection prevention that can be applied to our current COVID-19 predicament. As we move forward living in a world menaced by a disease that is fatal to so many, MIDI recommends that we move forward with advancing infection prevention by first reflecting on the attitudes and beliefs that inform the existing practices. By doing so, we can embrace existing devices and identify new approaches that will be beneficial in the future. Chris describes the need for a sort of paradigm shift, in which infection prevention will become a lifestyle rather than an afterthought. In the past, prevention has been manual and participatory while relying on chemical solutions. Moving forward, Chris explains, we should see this shift so that infection prevention utilizes high technology to make disinfection automated and as unobtrusive to the subject’s workflow as possible. Additionally, infection prevention measures should be required rather than optional, which is a shift we have already observed worldwide.
An excellent example of such a method is a device developed by MIDI to address harmful pathogens being spread from room to room on the bottoms of healthcare workers’ shoes, an issue discovered through the Discovery Research Tool™ part of their DevelopmentDNA™ process. This device, the FlooRx, is embedded in the floor and, when stepped on, utilizes UVC LEDs to instantly kill any pathogens residing on the sole of the shoe while passively tracking the compliance of caregivers. Devices such as this are likely to become the new standard of infection prevention as these practices become more commonplace in everyday life. More importantly, such devices will be indispensable in protecting the lives of those most at risk when contracting coronavirus, the elderly and immunocompromised.
Poised for Change
For several years, MIDI has worked with infection prevention device manufacturers to identify issues and devise new applications of unique technologies to address them in ways such as this. Moving forward, MIDI would use a similar approach in BlueOcean device development as it pertains to infection prevention. Using directional insight provided by market exploration and comparison of practices, device conceptualization would begin with MIDI’s team of engineers and usability experts. Tied to industrial designers, these professionals would utilize the DevelopmentDNA™ process to create a “device development roadmap” outlining the functional, financial, and business requirements of what Chris calls “the golden standard approach.” This roadmap would be carried out under MIDI’s Quality 1st™ umbrella in a swift and AGILE fashion key to appropriate crisis response. With years of existing experience in the field of infection prevention, MIDI is poised to make real changes in this now crucial arena.
Keep watch for the second part of MIDI Innovation Vault™, where Chris discusses the importance of identifying high risk environments and high vector touchpoints when developing solutions for infection prevention.