How clean is the doctor’s white coat?
It was a question pondered by Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell soon-to-be graduate, Jonathan Preminger, during his third-year clinical rotations.
“I would wear my white coat every day and see a lot of patients. At the end of the day, I would hang up my coat in the locker or hook like most physicians and staff. My clothes were fresh and new the next day but not so for my white coat,” said Preminger. “It made me think that a white coat worn and not cleaned regularly is likely not sanitary and could cause patient contamination.”
Further investigation by Preminger revealed an awareness of the clean coat issue by the health care community yet no concrete solution. “The current option is to encourage people to wash their white coats as often as possible,” said Preminger. But a nudge is not always enough. In fact, Preminger uncovered a study that showed 60% of physicians admit to washing their coats less than once per month to never, while another study revealed the wash interval to be 13 days.
That’s when he decided to take his research to the next level.
Preminger teamed up with a college friend who studied engineering and is now working in the medical device field. Together they formed SteriLux Systems, LLC, and came up with a plan and device design for disinfecting the white coat using ultraviolet light (UV) technology.
“UV light cleaning isn’t necessarily more effective [than traditional laundering],” explained Preminger, “however, it is more efficient.”
Following just over a year of development, Preminger’s company introduced SteriLocker, a patented garment sterilizer for hospitals using UV technology. The device, built just like a locker or a small closet, can be placed in various convenient locations throughout a clinical facility, including on patient units, doctor’s offices and surgical locker rooms, and high-volume areas. There’s no need to remove anything from the pockets as in traditional laundering, simply place the coat on the hanger in the locker and let the UV light do the work. The process takes a few minutes to sterilize garments versus a full laundering cycle. Adding to ease of use, SteriLocker also has the benefit of a Smart phone application that sends notifications to the user as to when a garment is cleaned, when a locker is available, and when a coat is due for a cleaning.
“SteriLocker allows for multiple sterilizations per day without the inconvenience of having to get a garment laundered,” explained Preminger. “The system is designed to reduce infections and improve patient care while saving health care facilities time and money.”
The SteriLocker was recently entered into the 2018 Hofstra-Digital Remedy Venture Challenge and seized third place. With growing interest and business connections as a result of the competition, Preminger looks forward to enhancing the concept and putting SteriLocker to work in health care facilities across the country as he prepares to enter a residency in anesthesiology at NewYork-Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medical Center.
“As I was developing the product, I could see every day while in the hospital that this could make a difference,” said Preminger. “I think a doctor’s job is not only to take care of patients when they’re sick but also to take care in a more general sense through problem-solving and innovation.”