Swarm Defense Works, Even For Hospitals

The most remarkable thing about last night’s Super Bowl was the Seahawk’s swarm defense, it stunned, literally, the most effective throwing weapon in the NFL.  Peyton Manning was neutralized from the fist snap till the last play.  In robotics, scientists have been studying swarm behaviors for years, as an effective learning pattern.  The irony today comes when robots actually take on their swarm inspirations.

A Texas start-up is doing just that for hospitals across the country, by zapping swarms of super, drug-reistant, bacteria in a matter of minutes with a unique robot cleaning system, called Xenex. The autonomous robot works by pulsing xenon ultraviolet (UV-C) light that is 25,000 times more powerful than sunlight to destroy harmful bacteria, viruses, fungi, and even bacterial spores. The system is effective against even the most dangerous pathogens, including Clostridium difficile (C. diff), norovirus, influenza, and staph bacteria, including Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, better known as MRSA.

The robot can disinfect a room in minutes and is easily portable, allowing it to be used in virtually any location within the hospital. For example, MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center is the first hospital in the Middle Atlantic region to implement the Xenex room disinfection system, which has been credited for helping other healthcare facilities in the U.S. decrease their MRSA and C.diff infection rates by more than 50 percent, according to studies.

“This technology represents our ongoing, aggressive efforts to offer our patients the highest possible quality of care, in the safest possible environment,” said Larry Strassner, Sr. Vice President of Operations and Chief Nursing Officer for the hospital. “We are very excited to begin using the robot to help us achieve our goals in infection prevention. Patient safety remains our top priority.” MFSMC plans to use this technology to clean all patient rooms, the ER and operating rooms.

Because the Xenex robots use UV light, they are able to reach every surface in the room and do not leave a chemical residue. Each treatment takes about 5 minutes. To disinfect a room after standard cleaning procedures are complete, hospital team members wheel the Xenex robot into the room, position it, begin the automated sequence, and then leave the room. A sign is placed outside the room warning people not to enter while the robot is in operation, and a motion sensor on the robot automatically shuts off the machine if anyone should enter, or if motion is detected. The process is then repeated on the other side of the bed and in the bathroom, for a total of 15 minutes to thoroughly clean each room.

“The environmental services team at MedStar Franklin Square feels empowered by the disinfection devices because they understand that they’re saving lives by preventing infections,” said Wendell Robinson, Regional Vice President of Sodexo, which provides integrated facilities management services to the hospital. “Infection control begins with a clean environment and the Xenex technology coupled with the Sodexo Shine Program delivers a room disinfection system that thoroughly accomplishes the desired outcome. It also reassures patients that they are receiving the highest quality services available in the marketplace today.”

A good sportsman is humble and accepts defeat as willingly as his/her triumph. Humans need to realize that our most dangerous pathogens may be out of our reach, leaving the door open for a robot to finish the drive and overcome our limitations.  Go SeaBots!

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