Improving Patient Safety AND Reducing Clinical Costs

Reduced Microbial Bioburden = Improved Patient Safety

Reducing microbial bioburden on frequently-touched clinical surfaces is now recognised as fundamental to improving patient safety.
Healthcare-Associated Infections (HCAIs) are still prevalent in healthcare; Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) is making the situation worse.

Strategic use of effective antimicrobial materials, as an adjunct to cleaning and hand hygiene, is proven effective – not only at reducing microbial bioburden on clinical touch surfaces – but also at reducing the infection risk to patients.

Reduced microbial bioburden on copper items in clinical settings (Salgado, 2013)
Recent research into antimicrobial efficacy under typical dry usage conditions shows a marked difference between copper alloys and other materials marketed as antimicrobial:
There is a wealth of robust evidence, spanning nearly 40 years, supporting the use of clinical touch-surface items made from copper alloys. This translational science article gives a useful overview with relevant citations:
Making clinical touch surfaces from copper & copper alloys gives rapid and continuous reduction of microbial bioburden, without change to cleaning regime or staff behaviour, this reduces the infection risk to patients and staff.
Helping To Tackle Antimicrobial Resistance
But that is not all – further research shows that copper has a role to play in helping to reduce the spread of AMR.

Horizontal Gene Transfer, a key element of AMR spread and development, takes place on standard clinical touch surfaces, but not on copper.

Installing touch-surfaces made from copper alloys – proven to lower HCAI rates – will also help to reduce antibiotic prescription levels.
Cost-Benefit Analysis: Astounding Results Indicated
Prevention of HCAIs is better, cheaper, and more ethical than simply trying to treat them.
Research by York Health Economics Consortium (YHEC) indicates very rapid initial payback plus significant long-term savings from installing copper touch surfaces.
Most commonly-used clinical disinfectants are compatible with copper materials, when used in accordance with manufacturer’s guidelines.
Routine cleaning to remove dirt and soil is necessary for good sanitation and to assure the effective antimicrobial performance of the copper alloy surface.  Cleaning agents typically used for traditional touch surfaces are permissible; the appropriate cleaning agent depends on the type of soiling and the measure of sanitisation required. Normal oxidation or wear of copper-alloy surfaces will not impair the antimicrobial effectiveness of the product.
A French study on use of copper over more than three years in five long-term care facilities concluded that, even with standard cleaning, copper alloy touch surfaces were an effective solution to reduce bacterial spread:
Feedback From Early Adopters
Feedback from the several sites around the world that have installed copper touch surfaces is positive.

At Grinnell Regional Medical Center in the US, post-installation assessment shows that the copper surfaces maintain ‘terminal clean’ levels of microbial bioburden even in ‘closed’ hospital rooms:

Recognition in design guidelines and healthcare ratings systems around the world

The benefits of strategic use of copper touch surfaces have been recognised in healthcare design guidelines and quality assessment systems around the world.   These include:

  • Health Protection Scotland, 2017
  • ECRI Institute: Top 10 Technology Watch List for the Hospital C-Suite, 2014
  • CNESH: Canadian Network for Environmental Scanning in Health, 2014
  • AHRQ: US Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, 2013
  • CMJ: Polish National Centre for Quality Assessment in Healthcare, 2016
  • EPIC3: NHS England NICE-accredited guidelines, 2014
  • Finnish Building Information Foundation Indoor Hygiene, 2017
  • International WELL Building Standardâ„¢, 2016
  • IGBC: Indian Green Building Council – Healthcare Facilities Rating System Guidelines, Pilot Version, 2016


Healthcare providers are under pressure to improve efficiency, resilience to seasonal challenges (such as ‘flu and norovirus) and to reduce their antibiotic prescription levels.

A robust body of evidence shows that strategic use of copper touch surfaces – a simple intervention – offers significant and long-term benefits for patients and healthcare providers alike.

Strategic use of clinical touch-surface items made from copper / copper alloys is proven to be an effective supplement to infection control – with dramatic results shown by laboratory testing and clinical trials – without the need to change behaviour of healthcare workers, cleaning staff or patients.

Reducing infections will improve patient safety – this is one of the five strategic objectives in the WHO Global Action Plan for tackling Antimicrobial Resistance.

Achieving clinical cost-savings and freeing-up beds is a fundamental part of improving healthcare efficiency. The YHEC research provides a strong business case for copper touch surfaces.

Strategic use of copper materials for touch surfaces is a simple measure for healthcare providers to improve their overall performance, their finances and their reputation; with wider social and economic benefits.

The wide range of copper alloys available means that products made from them do not even have to look like copper or brass. Some of the alloys are practically indistinguishable from stainless steel, yet have proven antimicrobial efficacy.

We hope this is helpful and thought-provoking.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.