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HonorHealth hospitals using germ-zapping robots to fight off coronavirus

PHOENIX — HonorHealth hospitals in Arizona are fighting off the coronavirus with the help of an unusual assistant: a 3-foot-tall germ-zapping robot.

Spread out through its five locations, the 32 robots use high-intensity ultraviolet light to disinfect every surface in a room. It’s one of the largest fleets in the country, according to HonorHealth.

“That light disrupts either the DNA or RNA of bacteria or viruses, respectively, and it renders those bacteria and viruses to a state where they cannot replicate,” said Dr. Stephanie Jackson, HonorHealth’s senior vice president and chief quality officer.

“So they cannot go on to produce another infection.”

The San Antonio-based company Xenex Disinfection Systems produces these robots and says they can destroy the coronavirus in 2 minutes.

HonorHealth is using the robots as part of its ramped-up cleaning measures in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

Jackson said the robots help to destroy germs that may have survived manual cleanings.

“As you can imagine, when you’re in a space that has a lot of nooks and crannies to it, it’s hard to get to all those places,” she said. “So the UV light really can penetrate the whole room.”

HonorHealth has been using the robots since 2016. They were first used for patients with blood cancers, who because of their treatment have significantly compromised immune systems and are vulnerable to infections.

Since then, HonorHealth has expanded the use of the robots to medical surgery floors, operating rooms and most recently to urgent cares where COVID-19 patients are being treated.

Jackson noted the robots “are pretty expensive.” Each one costs more than $100,000, but she added they’ve been effective in helping HonorHealth hospitals acquire low hospital-acquired infection rates.

“That’s something that is a concern nationally,” she said. “It’s one of the most common complications after surgery, for instance, so we feel that the robots have helped us to achieve those good rates that we have.”

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