How robots are fighting COVID-19 at Tennessee Valley Healthcare System

Robots are taking over the fight against COVID-19.

The Tennessee Valley Healthcare System purchased four Xenex disinfecting robots in 2017 to battle deadly pathogens and kill multi-drug resistant organisms. Since the onset of COVID-19, the number of robots has grown to a team of 10 to help patients and staff remain safe.

“Our Xenex robot usage is up 220 percent, and the robots have been used nearly 5000 times since the pandemic started.” Gary McCarthy, TVHS chief of environmental services said. “The Xenex robots work very well and have reduced the levels of bioburden in our hospitals.”

The mobile disinfection systems are designed to be effective against even the most dangerous pathogens, including Clostridium difficile, influenza, Ebola, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, and coronaviruses.

According to Xenex, pulsed xenon emits high intensity UVC light which penetrates the cell walls of microorganisms. Their DNA is fused, rendering them unable to reproduce or mutate, effectively killing them on surfaces.

“Xenex robots are 99.99 percent effective against COVID-19 and MRSA, 95 percent effective against C. diff and 100 percent effective against Vancomycin-resistant bacteria,” McCarthy said. “I’ve been fortunate to have implemented Xenex at VA hospitals in Boston and Tennessee. I whole-heartedly believe in the technology and how it protects our Veterans and staff. The technology has been verified many times through scientific studies and research.”

UV has been used for disinfection for decades. However, the germ-zapping robots use pulsed xenon, rather than mercury bulbs, to create germicidal UVC light.

“I feel safe and secure being here because of the robots,” said Steve Metzler, Air Force Veteran and environmental services employee. “Every time I enter an office space or room, I know I’m safe because the UVC light kills any bacteria and virus in the room. I’m really glad these are being used.”

Each robot has a unique name and a camouflage wrap that represents the military. Initial naming of the robots was completed through a ballot process.

McCarthy said his staff wanted the robots’ names related to local Tennessee culture or the military.

“At the Alvin C. York campus, we have Titan, Predator, Vulcan, Hornet, and Thresher,” he said. “Nashville has Black Hawk, Apache, Warthog, Sidewinder, and Midway.”

To learn more on how TVHS is protecting its patients and staff, visit

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