How Can Product Design Improve Patient Experience and Healthcare Efficiency?

December 2021 – The Journal of Healthcare Contracting

There are more than 6,000 hospitals currently operating in the U.S. Within these facilities, millions of nurses, infection preventionists, environmental services team members, and more strive to deliver quality care while preventing healthcare-associated infections (HAIs). 

Disinfection needs continue to evolve, and healthcare facilities have initiatives ranging from improving efficiencies in day-to-day operations to reducing waste and optimizing storage spaces. Some of the latest innovations help address these challenges, and can remove barriers, lower costs, and encourage compliance amongst medical professionals and patients.

Streamlining disinfection 

The introduction of single-use disinfection wipes was a game-changer for efficiency, safety, and compliance. When nurses needed to quickly wipe down a machine or disinfect a surface, they no longer had to grab a bottle of spray and a cloth or dilute chemicals. Over time, challenges began to emerge. Surfaces and equipment can be different sizes, requiring more or less wipes. Additionally, the canister lids could be difficult to efficiently operate, with common challenges including dispensing through the narrow opening or the lid not closing properly. This can cause the wipes to dry out and with less liquid, they may not adequately disinfect. 

As a response, manufacturers started to address the need for an easier to use and more efficient package design for disinfection products. For instance, certain lids of disinfecting wipe canisters are designed with the flexibility for users to pull the appropriate number of wipes for the job. They can dispense one wipe for small surfaces or multiple wipes for larger surfaces. Flip caps designed with “Snap & Close” technology can snap securely in place with just one tap, preserving the moisture of the remaining wipes. 

Reducing waste and saving space

A growing trend that is likely to continue is the inclusion of waste reduction initiatives for hospitals and health systems across the U.S. While waste associated with single-use disinfection products is inevitable, there have been recent innovations which reduce the overall plastic used in the packaging. Most notably, soft pack format options can offer 80% less plastic over similar canister options helping to reduce the overall waste footprint. Additionally, this type of packaging occupies 52% less space compared to a large canister. This provides two benefits – a facility can store more product especially during a time of need, like the COVID-19 pandemic, and one truckload of soft pack packaging materials equals more than five truckloads of large canister packaging materials.

Encouraging compliance through ease-of-use

Even the most rigorous infection prevention protocols come unraveled if compliance isn’t maintained. For busy nurses, remembering when and how to disinfect is just one of many competing tasks in an extremely busy day. Signage and placement tools can be used to put products where they are needed. Simple innovations, such as countertop caddies and wall brackets for disinfecting wipes provide visual cues to busy nurses. Infection prevention remains top-of-mind and, literally, within reach. These point-of-care accessories are readily available, with advice on where and how to best implement them in a healthcare setting. 

Looking ahead

Today’s healthcare facilities operate far differently than they did 20 years ago. However, the push to enhance ease of use and lower the HAI rate continues. Infection prevention companies are constantly meeting with and learning from healthcare professionals to understand their pain points. Practical issues are often raised, like how to make sure a surface stays wet for the prescribed contact time or what disinfectants can be used on more porous surfaces. This feedback will continue to fuel company’s future R&D efforts.