In the western world it is estimated that, each year, about 40 billion US $ are spent for the treatment of hospital infections which nevertheless cause 140,000 more deaths. Isn’t it great to know that our CODE_n CONTEST Finalist egoHEALTH has a solution to this? After a long research, they came up with a wearable device which, without any new duty from the Health Professionals, will contrast hospital acquired infections. Founder Gabriele Messina, a doctor himself, told us more about his startup:
What is egoHEALTH all about? How did you come up with the idea?
Gabriele: Sometimes the hospital nature to solve health problems, paradoxically turns into a vehicle of infection. The medical literature has proved the importance of fighting hospital infection to reduce both the health damages of patients (clinical complications and mortality) and healthcare costs due to increased patient’s length of stay and treatment. The treatment of nosocomial infections is increasingly complex and costly, even for the development of resistant microorganisms. The problem is particularly severe for the elderly, infants and debilitated subjects (transplants, invasive surgery, etc.) and immuno-deficient people. In the western world (USA and EU-28), having a population of around 800 million people, it is estimated that, each year, about 40 billion $ US have spent for the treatment of hospital infections which nevertheless cause 140,000 more deaths.
All things that come into contact and are shared between health staff and patients are possible carriers of infection. Nosocomial infections are often due to inadequate and shallow management of cleaning, sanitizing, disinfecting and sterilizing processes. The operators’ hands are the main vehicle of germs/viruses transmission and cause of hospital infection. The stethoscope is the most known portable instrument in the medical field and is frequently used by doctors and nurses for the auscultation of diagnostic sounds. It has been demonstrated that stethoscopes are contaminated as the hands of health operators, but while there is a lot of concern for disinfecting the hands, for example disinfectants ‘distributors attached on walls, there is no attention for stethoscopes. Yet the stethoscope head is always in contact with the patient! The stethoscope membrane can easily carry germs/viruses/fungi from one patient to another and/or from doctor to patient and it requires disinfection before each new visit.
Unfortunately, this is done infrequently in clinics, for many reasons, lack of awareness and sensitivity, little attention and bad practice. The scientific literature shows that less than 1/4 of healthcare workers clean the stethoscope head, although it was proved its role in hospital infection. If sensitized, doctors and health workers perceive as important the need to thoroughly disinfect the stethoscope membrane.
Our solution, originated from research, is a wearable device which, without any new duty from the Health Professionals, will contrast hospital acquired infections.
Currently, the process of stethoscope membrane disinfection is the use of cotton pads soaked in chemical disinfectants/alcohol. Although simple health professional do have to seek for cotton and also alcohol, all the times they use the stethoscope; in addition, they have to remember to disinfect the stethoscopes’ membrane. Moreover bacteria can develop resistance to chemical disinfectants and become even more dangerous.
“Digital Disruption“ – that’s the motto of this year’s CODE_n CONTEST. What makes your solution innovative, what makes it disruptive?
Gabriele: Stet Clean represents the Solution that preserves the Hygiene of the Stethoscope.
It has multi-faces disruptive aspects: its simple, practical and effective technology, together with its strong visual impact, represents a good sanitation behavior, so that looks like an original brand of medical professionality.
The idea is a “cover” for stethoscopes (Stet Clean®) inside which are placed one or more UV LEDs in the germicide wavelength range C of 260-280 nm. The choice of UV LED technology has been driven by their miniaturization, which enables the realization of wearable devices, easy to use, durable and low energy consumption, eco friendly. The physical approach (UV light) to disinfection/sterilization is one of the main advantages of Stet Clean® having the additional advantage of not requiring refill, be economical, cost saving, long-lasting. Contrarily to chemical approaches with disinfectants, it has no substances to be managed, no associated costs for the disposal of residuals arising from the disinfection/sterilization process. Stet Clean® attaches magnetically and/or mechanically to the head of the stethoscope, establishing automatically and immediately a series of sensorial light and electronic controls that in turn activate the process of disinfection/sterilization by UV-C light rays, lasting few minutes. The proposed solution allows to break down/eliminate the transmission of microbes and reduces the occurrence of nosocomial infections caused by stethoscope. Stet Clean® allows the reduction of the operator workload who will no longer has to disinfect the stethoscope membrane, but only engage with the core of its clinical activity, with undoubted positive impact on healthcare.
Stet Clean is the real feasible solution to the problem compared to other competitors, including alcoholic disinfectants. Despite these last have shown to be highly effective for reducing the microbial contamination, they are not able to solve careless behavioral attitudes. The created device uses a microbiocide UV Light emitted by LED, in an innovative way. In particular, Stet Clean:
- is automatic VS Disinfectant & cotton pad that requires that the Health Professional remember to undertake the disinfectant procedures all the time;
- does not produce waste materials (eco-friendly) VS Disinfectant & cotton pad that must be disposed in a special expensive way, because, if improperly used, they are dangerous for health;
- is readily available VS Disinfectant & cotton pad that needs to be always searched/collected;
- is a personal device ensuring that stethoscope is always disinfected; this is a key element when considering that disinfectants, although very effective, are not used a lot.
You’re one of the 13 finalists in the HealthTech contest cluster. Which challenges do you think young companies have to face in this sector?
Gabriele: We think it is very important to innovate and to find feasible solutions which help all the players (Patients, Doctors, Health System, Society). We challenged ourselves putting on the table all our few financial resources and we bet on this research project because of the strong scientific evidences. Although there are some disadvantages in being a small Company, on the other hand, it is possible to act faster and to run LEAN schemes which make the products centered on core aspects and “desiderata”.
How do you handle these challenges?
Gabriele: The competencies of the team within egoHEALTH having heterogeneous and complementary technical skills. In addition, three out of four members have a long, wide and successful research activity in the University of Siena, in the fields of Public Health and Bioengineering. This makes possible to produce scientific evidences of the achievements reached during the research activities.
Your founder team consists of a medical doctor, a bioengineer, a biologist and a lawyer, so you’re well positioned when it comes to developing your product. As professionals you also know the difficulties in entering the medical market with new solutions: are you already working together with certain parties to simplify this process?
Gabriele: We know that the medical market is very demanding. We have partnerships/collaborations with several players:
- firstly, direct contact with core partners such as the main world producers of UVC LEDs who collaborate with us because of the reciprocal business that the innovative devices is able to generate;
- secondly, a partnership with the Company Light Progress (www.lightprogress.it.) which has its core business in UVC products for multiple uses, including disinfection/sterilization of air, surfaces, water, operates at National/International level and has a solid experience on the market, since mid ‘80;
- and thirdly a collaboration with ST Electronic, world player in the electronic field.
Thanks so much for talking to us and all the best to you and your team, Gabriele!