The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically impacted long-term care facilities across the United States. COVID-19 is primarily spread via infectious respiratory droplets, but can also be spread via contaminated surfaces, hands and aerosols, in certain situations. 

Given the unique communal nature of long-term care and length of average stays, nursing home staff must place special attention to ensure basic infection prevention and control recommendations are adhered to by all within the facility. The environment of care surrounding residents can easily become heavily contaminated.

Basic practices include hand hygiene, environmental surface disinfection, proper use of personal protective equipment, and staying home when acutely ill. Infection control interventions assist in breaking the chain of infection, which greatly reduces the incidence of COVID-19 infections within nursing homes. 

Large, congregate environments such as dining facilities, rehabilitation gyms, activity rooms and visitation areas are not easily disinfected with traditional disinfectants such as ready-to-use disinfecting liquids. As a result, facilities should consider using electrostatic sprayers for the application of EPA-registered disinfectants to rapidly disinfect large surface areas. 

Novel disinfection technologies such as electrostatic sprayers afford healthcare professionals the opportunity to easily and consistently disperse Environmental Protection Agency-registered disinfectants onto potentially contaminated environmental surfaces and cover large surface areas with ease.

These electrostatic devices are portable, allow for widespread application and are easy to use by a wide variety of stakeholders such as environmental services technicians or other building services professionals. This can improve room turnover, especially during the ongoing challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. Facilities are routinely performing “deep cleaning” of resident rooms, especially those that are multiple-patient occupancy, to decrease cross-contamination. An electrostatic sprayer that disperses an EPA-registered disinfectant can return the room to full use more quickly. 

As with all healthcare products in the marketplace, it is important that new technologies be properly vetted to ensure they meet your facility’s requirements. When evaluating an electrostatic device, long-term care providers must consider and meet the following criteria:

  1. Efficacy: The electrostatic sprayer should only be used with EPA-registered disinfectants that have label claims for dispersal via the electrostatic mechanism. The device should have a steady power supply to ensure consistent dispersal of the disinfectant being passed through the device. A disinfectant with a reasonable overall contact time (ideally less than five minutes for overall contact time) should be sprayed through the electrostatic device.
  2. Safety: As with any technology used in healthcare, electrostatic devices must be safe for both the patient and the healthcare team. Some electrostatic devices require specific PPE for safe use, so users should always follow manufacturer’s safety precautions located on a product’s EPA master-label. 
  3. Compatibility: Any disinfecting solution must be compatible with common environmental surfaces such as countertops, overbed tables, patient call remotes and medical equipment to prevent equipment malfunction and degradation. 

Users should also refer to the EPA’s Frequently Asked Questions about Disinfectants and Coronavirus for information on disinfectants effective against SARS-CoV-2 and those that can be applied to surfaces using an electrostatic sprayer. If a disinfectant does not have an existing electrostatic spraying use claim on the product’s EPA master label, the EPA has NOT evaluated the safety and efficacy for the product using an electrostatic sprayer as the means for disinfectant dispersal. 

If the above criteria are met, the facility must implement sprayer technology according to its infection prevention and control policies, as well as clinical environment of care policies and procedures. Tips for implementation include but are not limited to:

  • Before the technology can be deployed, all users must be properly trained and their competency with the device documented. Training should include review and access to the product’s instructions for use, safety data sheet and PPE requirements. Training should be in-person or a hybrid of online, self-paced learning with in-person competency tests.
  • Infection prevention and control and environmental services leaders should also collaboratively draft a policy and procedure for the appropriate use of the technology prior to implementation in any clinical areas including product contact time, spraying distance and appropriate use of PPE. 

The use of an electrostatic sprayer to disinfect the clinical environment of care can significantly improve room turnover, reduce overall costs and reduce the incidence of cross-contamination when used according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Novel disinfecting technologies can play a pivotal role in decreasing the spread of pathogens and stopping transmission between residents, staff, visitors and the care environment. 

J. Hudson Garrett Jr., PhD, MSN, MPH, FNAP is President and CEO of Community Health Associates and a consultant with Clorox Healthcare.