It is estimated that 1 in 25 hospital patients acquire an infection that was unrelated to the illness the were initially hospitalized for. In the US, it costs approximately $40 billion per year to treat patients who became infected during their hospital stay. As you can imagine there are many ramifications to these healthcare-acquired infections such as an increase in healthcare costs, mortality, and longer hospital stays. It is thought that as many as 80% of hospital infections such as pneumonia and MRSA are acquired by touching contaminated surfaces, particularly the bed rail.
Copper, a metal used in ancient Egypt to treat wounds, has an anti-microbial element. By replacing hospital bed rails with copper rails, hospitals are able to cut their healthcare-acquired infections by more than half, from 8.1% to 3.4%.
“Copper definitely wipes out microbes. ‘Bacteria, yeasts and viruses are rapidly killed on metallic copper surfaces, and the term ‘contact killing’ has been coined for this process,’ wrote the authors of an article on copper in Applied and Environmental Microbiology.” (source)
There is discussion that hospital could also add copper IV poles, and copper elements in the hospital bedding to further provide protections for patients.