How the Risk of Cross-Contamination is Changing Medicine

Since the dawn of medicine, cross-contamination has been a threat to patient and physician health. Those involved with a medical procedure or examination had a high chance of being exposed to harmful bacteria, especially if the environment or tools used during each interaction were not deemed safe. The only difference between then and now is that the general public is acutely aware of the risks of cross-contamination. This awareness is due to the ongoing global pandemic COVID-19.

Cross-contamination can occur once a harmful microorganism has transferred from one host to a new host. This threat can compromise the safety of a medical practice by spreading through a number of different routes: by physical contact, by airborne spread, by respiratory droplet transmission, or by physical objects. Preventing cross-contamination within a medical office should be priority when the health and safety of staff members and patients are at risk.

Many medical practices do exercise standardized sanitation and safety procedures to keep tools, examination areas, and private offices sterilized; however, some bacteria or microorganisms may be still be able to escape. How can this happen?

  • Although medical protocol requires physicians and certain staff members to be trained on sterilization procedures, contamination can still linger on reusable medical devices. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration reports, “Inadequate cleaning between patient uses can result in the retention of blood, tissue, and other biological debris (soil) in certain types of reusable medical devices. This debris can allow microbes to survive the subsequent disinfection or sterilization process, which could then lead to Healthcare-Associated Infections (HAIs)…”
  • Similar to faulty sterilization practices, failure to follow standard health procedures around the medical office or facility can lead to cross-contamination. For example, not disposing of medical gloves after interacting with one patient or surface can increase risks of dangerous cross-contamination.
  • If a medical practice still allows crowding in common areas, sick patients to enter the vicinity, or sick staff to enter the vicinity, that practice may be subject to further contamination by a compromised individual.

A practice that encounters cross-contamination will inevitably experience consequences. Some of those consequences may include:

  • A medical practice’s patient or staff member being exposed to dangerous contamination
  • The health and safety of the entire office being compromised
  • Potential legal action against the practice by whoever was affected by the harmful repercussions of cross-contamination
  • A financial loss or a loss of clients

Single-use, or disposable, medical devices can significantly decrease risks of cross-contamination among patients, clinicians, and medical staff members. A disposable medical device is intended to be used once on a single patient. It has not come into contact with any potential contaminants before being released from its individual package. Single-use devices are designed to help eliminate the spread of bacteria or contaminants to other individuals because they will safely be disposed by a physician after one use. This contributes to the decrease of infectious disease outbreaks in a medical facility due to cross-contamination.

Specifically, how can a medical office performing pelvic examinations help avoid the dangers of cross-contamination? That office or facility can invest in single-use, disposable speculums. The SpecuLume EZ, Cyalume Medical’s single-use, chemiluminated vaginal speculum, is a safer alternative to a reusable speculum. This modern medical device fights cross-contamination through its disposability, functional design, and ease of use. To learn more about the benefits of the SpecuLume EZ, contact Cyalume Medical today.

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