Since bacterial strains commonly found in health care facilities are highly resistant to antibiotics, nosocomial, or hospital-acquired infections, are a big problem. In hospitals, we use a lot of fomites that can carry germs. Fomites are all those inanimate items that go from hand to hand, from patient to patient. They include pens, tablets, phones, plastic cards, and many other that go unnoticed.

In hospitals, many diagnostic and examination tools are fomites used to assess the clinical status of patients. The way we manage these tools is of key importance when it comes to preventing nosocomial infections. Stethoscopes, blood pressure cuffs and also thermometers are the most commonly used. In case of tools that enter a natural orifice like the mouth, the ear canal, or the anus, a protective cover will prevent the tool from coming into direct contact with the patient. 

Currently, all other tools that come into contact with the skin of the patient are not protected. This group of tools deserves special attention because disinfection between patients is obviously crucial.

Even though hand washing has been recognized as a very effective method for controlling the spread of infection since the mid-1800s, the cleaning of many of the instruments used for patient examinations is not always common practice. The importance of cleaning these fomites has been documented in studies and publications. Here are two of the most recent studies: 

Alejandro Campos-Murguía et al. ‘Stethoscopes as potential intrahospital carriers of pathogenic microorganisms’ in the American Journal of Infection Control 42 (2014) 82-3. 

Hajime Kanamori et al. ‘The Role of Patient Care Items as a Fomite in Healthcare-Associated Outbreaks and Infection Prevention’, Clinical Infectious Diseases, Volume 65, Issue 8, 15 October 2017, Pages 1412–1419,

As the COVID-19 pandemic has shown, hygienic control of fomites is crucial. As a result, we now see a much higher level of sanitization of medical equipment – a practice that will continue with increasing attention and strong protocols. 

Fomites can sometimes be difficult to sanitize, which poses a significant problem. For example, SpO2 sensors are notoriously difficult to clean because of the uneven nature of the concave surface of these sensors. At the same time, they come into contact with one of the most contaminating anatomical parts of the body, the finger.

So what about thermometers? When it comes to Temporal Artery Thermometers Exergen recommends to avoid the use of disposable caps or sheaths, unless the use of these covers is required because of the high level of patient isolation (for example ebola patients or immunosuppression patients like cancer patients or patients undergoing a transplant).

This raises frequently the question: why does Exergen suggest that protective caps and covers not be used? 

The reason is that Exergen’s clinical grade Temporal Artery Thermometers (TAT-5000(S) and TAT-2000) can be very easily and effectively sanitized. 

This is due to the Temporal Artery Thermometer design based on the internally developed SuperPlastic®. The surface of the thermometer is very smooth without any ribbing and hostile to the permanence of germs in the thermometer surface when sanitized by way of sweeping the surface with an antiseptic solution. This is a common maneuver applied to effectively sanitize hospital surfaces, it is fast, inexpensive and it does not leave a waste footprint.

This means that the Temporal Artery Thermometer can be disinfected with just a cotton cloth and some medicinal alcohol. In other words, it is very easy to clean a TAT-5000 and TAT-2000 and it costs next to nothing. The use of consumables requires hospitals to invest substantial sums of money in protective throwaway covers. Additionally, the plastic footprint is disproportionate to the hygienic benefit. 

In hospitals, nosocomial infections are a significant problem. Medical equipment designed with nosocomial infections in mind like the Temporal Artery Thermometer contributes substantially to facilitate the prevention of hospital acquired infections, while at the same time providing significant financial and environmental savings.