So what's the problem?
It is unsettling but true that hospitals can be dangerous places.
Although having your blood pressure taken is a procedure we're all familiar with, few people outside the field of infection control stop to think about what a great breeding ground blood pressure cuffs make for harmful bacteria and viruses.
Studies have repeatedly demonstrated that they are teeming with important pathogenic organisms including MRSA, C. difficile, and Norovirus, amongst others. Due to the number of times such cuffs are consecutively used in the average hospital ward, they are a well recognised and important contributor to the spread of HCAIs.
Likewise, other familiar pieces of medical equipment such as stethoscopes and pulse oximeters are used in vast numbers across the NHS and worldwide and have been shown to be similarly colonised with harmful organisms.
Why does this matter?
Contaminated equipment spreads HCAIs, and limiting HCAI spread is an established priority for all healthcare providers. Despite a decade of focus and heavy investment HCAIs still cost the UK £1bn/year. Strict targets financially penalise providers for failing to control HCAI rates, and providers who successfully meet targets have ever tighter ones imposed to push for continued improvement.
Providers must therefore find new ways to drive down HCAI rates while remaining within budget. Contaminated blood pressure cuffs, stethoscopes and pulse oximeters continue to spread HCAIs,and providing a cost-effective and elegant solution to this problem clearly provides a business opportunity.
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- 1 Norovirus season 2011 & 2012, defined as July year 1 to June year 2
- 2 Source: Health Protection Agency
So why isn't anything being done?
Our research shows that existing solutions to this problem are too time-consuming, impractical or expensive for consistent use.
Manual cleaning takes too long and is done only sporadically, especially when workload is highest. This is particularly important in high-turnover areas such as A&E and medical admissions where the potential for HCAI spread is greatest yet available time for cleaning is most limited. Disposable blood pressure cuffs or stethoscopes are environmentally unsound and completely unacceptable on cost 3.
It is the absence of rapid and easy cleaning methods that prevents consistent cleaning of equipment between patients. It is only through making consistent cleaning part of absolutely standard practice that such equipment can be eliminated from the pool of factors causing HCAIs. Inconsistent or sporadic cleaning simply isn't effective.
The answer lies in innovation. Mantra Medical has designed a suite of completely unique devices that will effectively and safely clean blood pressure cuffs, stethoscope diaphragms and pulse oximeters in just a few seconds at the bedside.
These highly innovative designs:
- Offer the first realistic means of cleaning equipment before and after use on every single patient.
- Provide a cleaning solution that is so quick and easy to use it requires virtually no behavioural change to be implemented, minimising any potential for non-compliance.
- Prioritise safety, value for money, and environmental friendliness, and even double as a convenient storage solution.
- Work with an optional integrated RF system that will automatically audit use of the devices to provide data useful as part of an overall HCAI audit strategy.
We therefore offer the very first single solution that stores, cleans and automatically audits the cleaning of commonly used medical equipment at the bedside.
- 3 Source: Market research conducted with Medipex NHS Innovation hub; meetings with infection control departments in Yorkshire, 2012
The bigger picture
Having learned that there are opportunities for innovative designs where existing clinical problems lack an ideal solution, Mantra Medical began to look more broadly at medical practice. We realised that if a common task is proving repeatedly time consuming then resources are being repeatedly wasted. This is simply not acceptable in times of austerity. Therefore, we looked at providing quicker and sleeker solutions to other common problems beyond infection control.
Many patients attending emergency departments present with wounds. A common treatment option is to use wound closure strips, but these are cumbersome and time-consuming to apply, and often stick in unintended ways meaning they are thrown away and wasted. Realising that an innovative solution to this problem could also speed up wound closure, allow application of controlled tension across the wound, and allow laying of strips in multiple directions, we designed the Mantra Medical Wound Closure device. Similar thinking underpins our wider range of concepts.
We intend that all our concepts will ultimately be fully researched, developed, prototyped and marketed, both in the UK and overseas.