Hospital acquired infections are a huge multi-billion dollar problem for providers, with one of the largest risks being surgical site infections. In some cases these issues can be linked to contaminated scrubs.
One analysis found that at the end of a standard 8-hour workshift, a majority of scrubs worn by hospital personnel are carrying dangerous bacteria including antibiotic resistant strains of MRSA, VRE and C-Diff.
Additionally, some of these strains cling to the fabric of scrubs and are nearly impossible to get rid completely through traditional home laundry methods. While hospitals have taken steps to improve practices and limit the potential for infection among internal staff, there is still a major risk posed by traveling surgical sales reps.
“The individual you see standing at a store, or the gym, or in Starbucks in scrubs is most likely one of these medical device reps. They’re going from hospital to hospital throughout the day and they’re not changing even when they’re standing over patients,” said Jeff Feuer, the CEO of RepScrubs.
Feuer’s Sanford, Florida-based company offers a disposable scrubs vending machine called the ScrubsPort, along with a software system to track who’s active in a hospital’s OR.
RepScrubs was founded by Feuer, a 25-year veteran of medical device sales, in 2013. Last year, the company raised a $1.5 million Series A financing round from Florida Funders and DeepWork Capital.
DeepWork Capital Managing Partner Mitchel Laskey said RepScrubs represented a cost-effective way for hospitals to push sales reps into better infection risk practices.
Medical device sales reps register with RepScrubs and punch in a code to purchase a pair of disposable scrubs, a red bouffant cap and a sticker which explains who the person is and where the scrubs were purchased. After eight hours the sticker turns red, indicating that the scrubs should be disposed of or recycled.
The 19-person company launched commercially in 2015 and has a presence in around 130 health systems around the country including Johns Hopkins, Jackson Health System and Mt. Sinai hospital. Feuer said the company has seen a roughly 25 percent growth rate quarter to quarter.
RepScrubs product is offered at no charge to the hospital, which only has the responsibility to refill the machine with new scrubs and require their use by vendors. The company makes its revenue by selling disposable scrubs to sales reps at $7.95 a pop.
Feuer said hospitals also benefit from not having to purchase scrubs for reps and decreased foot traffic from vendors hawking their wares.
He also highlighted an alarming lack of security and access control in many hospitals. Tracking – if you can call it that – is generally a pair of keys or ID exchanged for hospital provided scrubs.
“Most of the security in a hospital is at the front door. If you walk in wearing scrubs and you cite the name of a company you have access to pretty much anywhere you want to go,” Feuer said.
The RepScrubs system offers a software dashboard that highlights what sales reps are actually in the hospital and sends alerts when someone purchases scrubs from the company’s vending machine, freeing up the employee charged with managing the inflow of vendors.
Of course, infection control can’t be achieved through any one product or practice, but Feuer said RepScrubs can at least help overwhelmed hospital staff get a handle on one important variable.
“It’s mitigating risk, when you have a large visitors coming and going, and you can’t ensure they’re wearing clean scrubs, it’s a huge risk,” Feuer said.
“One of our goals is to do the right thing, we’ve been executives or upper management for many years and we stepped away not because we’re trying to sell scrubs, but to really do something about vendor management, patient safety and infection prevention.”
Picture: DaevichMikalai, Getty Images