A St. Petersburg company is putting its foot down on hospital-acquired infections.
Green Earth Medical Solutions developed technology that kills germs on the bottom of shoes, which often are overlooked as a source for bacteria, virus and other disease-causing microorganisms.
The company’s PathO3Gen sanitizing stations combine UVC, a type of ultraviolet light, and ozone, to sanitize shoes. Anyone entering a healthcare facility or a critical care area steps on the station and waits for about six seconds. When they step off, 99.9 percent of the deadly pathogens have been eliminated, said chief operating officer Scott Beal.
Healthcare acquired infections, or HAIs, cause about 100,000 deaths every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There’s been a lot of attention paid to infection control in healthcare, most of it focused on hand washing and cleaning high-touch surfaces. A 2017 clinical study showed 77 percent of the soles of shoes walking into a hospital contained superbugs such as MRSA and C. difficile, or a combination of the two.
“Initially, clinicians said ‘we don’t operate on the floors, those are not areas of concern,’” Beal said. “But the infection control community and stakeholders have been coming out with more and more published credible studies that say what is tracked in on the floor is getting airborne and aerosolized, and makes it to high-touch areas, which then cause HAIs.”
Reducing pathogens tracked in by shoes also increases the efficacy of other sanitizing methods, because the building is not being overrun by germs, Beal said.
Hospitals have financial reasons to reduce hospital-acquired infections. Beginning in 2015, federal reimbursements to hospitals were directly affected by their HAI rates.
AdventHealth Connerton, an acute-care specialty hospital in Pasco County, is testing the technology.
“The sanitizing stations allow us to establish new protocols that proactively prevent infections to ensure the best possible outcomes for patients while they’re in our care,” Debi Martoccio, chief operating officer at AdventHealth Connerton, said in a statement.
With any new technology, gaining traction and changing minds are tough to do, Beal said.
“It’s important to have someone the size and scope and reputation of AdventHealth that sees the benefit of what we are trying to accomplish,” he said.
There also are foot sanitizing stations at Cypress Creek Assisted Living in Sun City Center.
There are competitors that use UVC to disinfect shoes, Beal said. None of those companies combine UVC with ozone, a combination initially created by Asher Gil, an Israeli aeronautical engineer. Gil tested his combination of UVC and ozone at University of South Florida. Gil was bought out about three years ago by his partners, who further developed the technology and ran clinical tests. The product went to market in the fourth quarter of 2018.
Those initial owners and one outside investor have provided the capital for Green Earth Medical, now in its second round of fundraising, Beal said.
The company is headquartered in downtown St. Petersburg. It has four full-time employees, and contracts with distributors to market the sanitizing stations. There are about 25 to 30 representatives in the field marketing the product, and the company is in the early stages of talks with more healthcare facilities, as well as clean rooms and labs, Beal said.
The sanitizing stations are the only product right now, but other products are in the process of being patented, he said. He expects to ramp up development on those once the company gains traction.
“We are out trying to market, educate, change perceptions and shift the paradigms that exist around infection controls,” Beal said. “Our goal is to reduce bioburden in every facility that has an immune-compromised population.”