How Smart Privacy Glass Prevents Contamination In Healthcare Settings

Privacy curtains, window curtains and blinds pose a contamination risk in healthcare environments. Discover how smart privacy glass offers superior cleanliness and protection against pathogens such as drug resistant infections and the novel coronavirus.

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In today’s healthcare climate, pandemics such as COVID-19 and drug resistant pathogens pose a real contamination threat in healthcare settings. Traditionally, hospitals have used curtains and blinds on windows and privacy curtains in shared patient rooms. Nowadays, thanks to innovative smart glass technology, hospitals and other medical facilities do not need to take the contamination risks commonly associated with curtains. Smart Glass and Smart Film go from opaque to transparent with the application of electrical current, providing instant privacy and acting as a great alternative to privacy curtains and outdated window treatments. 

Privacy Curtains Are Unsanitary

As common as privacy curtains may be in medical environments, healthcare textiles are often overlooked when it comes to the role they play in the transmission of infectious disease. However, it is understood that curtains pose a high risk for contamination because they are frequently touched but infrequently changed. 

Researchers have increasingly been investigating the ways in which contaminated fabrics can serve as a vehicle for cross-contamination and transmission of multidrug-resistant organisms and viruses. These studies have demonstrated that pathogens can be shed by patients and visitors and can contaminate hospital surfaces at levels sufficient for transmission. More disturbingly, research has shown that some germs can survive and persist for extended periods despite disinfecting procedures or washing and they can still be picked up by the hands of healthcare workers. 

How Often Are Privacy Curtains Cleaned?

A study by DeAngelis, et al. (2013) surveyed hospitals and found that the majority only changed privacy curtains when they were visibly dirty and in need of a change. Thirteen percent of respondents said that privacy curtains were cleaned in a standard hospital room ‘every month’, another thirteen percent said ‘every 3 months’ and a further thirteen percent answered ‘once per year.’  Only fifty-five percent of the hospitals had written policies regarding how often privacy curtains needed to be cleaned and only fifty-three percent had a written policy on how often they should be replaced. 

When the hospital respondents were asked whether they felt that improvements to the management of hospital curtains could be made 86 percent said yes and 82 percent felt that privacy curtains may be a potential source of transmission for infectious strains commonly associated with hospitals, such as hospital acquired pneumonia. 

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Do Pathogens Build up on Hospital Privacy Curtains?

Without regular cleaning and replacement, privacy curtains can harbour drug resistant bacteria and transfer viruses, posing a threat to patient safety. A study by Shek, et al. (2018), tracked the contamination rate of ten freshly laundered privacy curtains in a Canadian hospital. This study found that curtains that were hung in patient rooms became contaminated over time. On day 14 of the study, 87.5 percent of the curtains tested positive for MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), a drug resistant strain of staph infection causing bacteria. The control curtains, which were not hung in patient rooms, remained clean. Interestingly, none of the rooms where the curtains were placed were occupied by patients with MRSA, suggesting that contamination resulted from direct contact with healthcare workers. 

Are Plastic Curtains Better than Fabric?

Not necessarily. Viruses such as the novel coronavirus can live up to 3 days on plastic and hospital curtains are not cleaned daily or even weekly. 

The Solution: Use Smart Privacy Glass Instead of Privacy Curtains

Smart glass, also referred to as privacy glass, switchable glass or intelligent glass, is an electric switchable glass with adjustable opacity. Through the use of PDLC (Polymer-Dispersed Liquid Crystal) technology, smart glass can go from transparent to opaque with the flick of a switch, providing privacy on demand. Keeping patient environments clean is critical in the prevention of healthcare-associated infections, making a privacy glass a major enhancement to any healthcare setting. 

Here are 7 advantages of using electric privacy glass in medical facilities:

1. Easy to Clean

Smart Glass is cleaned just like regular glass and does not need to be removed to be thoroughly cleaned, as is the case with privacy curtains. Glass surfaces can easily be cleaned and disinfected on a daily basis or immediately if they become dirty. The ease of cleaning makes glass more sanitary than fabric or plastic curtains, regardless of how long viruses or bacteria can survive on glass versus fabric or plastic. The fact that Smart Glass privacy partitions and windows can be cleaned in place makes the cleaning procedures faster and less disruptive for patients and medical staff. In doing so, it saves medical personnel valuable cleaning time and money. 

2. Privacy On Demand

Switchable glass goes from clear to frosted instantly, giving staff and patients unprecedented control over their privacy. Medical facilities usually need to be sectioned off into a series of small spaces, which can make healthcare environments feel a bit claustrophobic and block natural light. With Smart Glass, it is easy to design open, connected medical spaces without any compromise on privacy. Switchable glass can also be used on operable glass walls, windows and doors. 

3. Touchless Control

The other good news about electric privacy glass is that it does not need to be touched to be controlled. There are many ways that the glass can be switched on and off (from transparent to opaque) including wall switches, remote controls, automation systems, timers and voice command. This eliminates the need to touch and contaminate the glass, unlike curtains, making it an extremely hygienic alternative. 

4. Antimicrobial Coatings Can Be Applied

To further enhance cleanliness, antimicrobial coatings can be applied to switchable glass, adding an invisible physical barrier for germs. These clear coatings prevent the growth of microbes, viruses and fungi on glass surfaces and facilitate cleaning procedures. Contact us for more details. 

5. Isolation Units

Using switchable glass for visibility in isolation units allows hospital staff to monitor patients without having to enter each isolation unit individually. The result is a reduced risk of contamination for both staff and other patients in the facility. 

6. Soundproofing Properties

In addition to providing privacy, switchable glass products minimize noise. Hospitals can be noisy with visitors coming and going, nurses running around and other patients going about their activities. It can be challenging for patients to get the rest they need and for conversations to be kept private. Curtains do not offer much when it comes to dampening noise. In comparison, smart glass can greatly reduce noise and create quieter healthcare settings. 

7. A Permanent Solution

SmartGlass does not need to be replaced regularly, as is the case with privacy curtains. While switchable glass may be more expensive up front, it has a lifespan of roughly 100,000 hours, or over 20 years. This makes it a low maintenance option that will never look outdated or go out of style. 

Make the Smart Choice with Smart Glass

In addition to being practical, SmartGlass makes hospitals, doctors clinics, dental offices and senior care centres more high tech with a cutting edge, minimalist design. Any type of glass can be made switchable, whether it is X-Ray glass, fire resistant or security glass. We offer innovative wiring solutions for emergency room breakaway doors, retractable glass walls and other operable glass scenarios. 

Learn more about how Smart Glass Country’s antibacterial smart glass solutions can improve the design and cleanliness of medical facilities. Contact us for more information.

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