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Improving Cleaning of the Environment Surrounding Patients in 36 Acute Care Hospitals

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 January 2015

Philip C. Carling*
Infectious Diseases Section, Caritas Carney Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts
Michael M. Parry
Department of Infectious Diseases, Stamford Hospital, Stamford, Connecticut Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University, New York, New York
Mark E. Rupp
Department of Infectious Diseases, Nebraska Medical Center, andUniversity of Nebraska, Omaha, Nebraska
John L. Po
Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts Department of Infectious Diseases, Boston Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts
Brian Dick
Department of Hospital Epidemiology, The Toledo Hospital, Toledo, Ohio
Sandra Von Beheren
Department of Hospital Epidemiology, University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, Iowa City, Iowa
Infectious Diseases Section, Caritas Carney Hospital, 2100 Dorchester Avenue, Boston, MA 02124 (



The prevalence of serious infections caused by multidrug-resistant pathogens transmitted in the hospital setting has reached alarming levels, despite intensified interventions. In the context of mandates that hospitals ensure compliance with disinfection procedures of surfaces in the environment surrounding the patient, we implemented a multihospital project to both evaluate and improve current cleaning practices.


Prospective quasi-experimental, before-after, study.


Thirty-six acute care hospitals in the United States ranging in size from 25 to 721 beds.


We used a fluorescent targeting method to objectively evaluate the thoroughness of terminal room disinfection cleaning before and after structured educational and procedural interventions.


Of 20,646 standardized environmental surfaces (14 types of objects), only 9,910 (48%) were cleaned at baseline (95% confidence interval, 43.4-51.8). Thoroughness of cleaning at baseline correlated only with hospital expenditures for environmental services personnel (P = .02). After implementation of interventions and provision of objective performance feedback to the environmental services staff, it was determined that 7,287 (77%) of 9,464 standardized environmental surfaces were cleaned (P < .001). Improvement was unrelated to any demographic, fiscal, or staffing parameter but was related to the degree to which cleaning was suboptimal at baseline (P < .001).


Significant improvements in disinfection cleaning can be achieved in most hospitals, without a substantial added fiscal commitment, by the use of a structured approach that incorporates a simple, highly objective surface targeting method, repeated performance feedback to environmental services personnel, and administrative interventions. However, administrative leadership and institutional flexibility are necessary to achieve success, and sustainability requires an ongoing programmatic commitment from each institution.

Original Article
Copyright © The Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America 2008

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