With disinfection and proper sanitation being at the forefront of most healthcare facilities’ minds, SMG3 is taking the time to assist caregivers on how to prevent germ spread through their mobile devices.
In the healthcare sector, mobile devices are used to call nurses, access patient health records, and enter data at patient bedsides. However, these devices can harbor bacteria and can be a vector for disease transmission if they are not properly sanitized. In fact, improperly disinfected phones can contribute to the risk of healthcare-associated infections / hospital-acquired infections (HAIs). One study screened 200 mobile phones from healthcare workers (HCWs) in 14 operating rooms and an intensive care unit (ICU). The results showed that 94.5% of the mobile phones demonstrated evidence of contamination with various pathogens. Consequently, facilities must dedicate efforts to both cleaning and disinfecting devices.
Cleaning Vs. Disinfecting
Cleaning your phone with a microfiber cloth may produce the appearance of cleanliness, but in general, it’s not enough to remove harmful pathogens from the surface. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines the differences between cleaning and disinfecting as follows:
- Cleaning refers to the removal of germs, dirt, and impurities from surfaces. Cleaning does not kill germs, but by removing them, it lowers their numbers and the risk of spreading infection.
- Disinfecting refers to using chemicals to kill germs on surfaces. This process does not necessarily clean dirty surfaces or remove germs, but by killing germs on a surface after cleaning, it can further lower the risk of spreading infection.
Best practice is to clean mobile phones of visible impurities first, followed by disinfecting the surface with a chemical cleaner.
The type of chemical cleaner used will depend on the mobile device. For example, many consumer-grade devices will not hold up to repeated disinfecting with harsh chemicals, and many do not have the IP rating necessary to avoid the ingress of liquid that can damage internal device components. However, enterprise-grade devices are designed to hold up to frequent cleaning and disinfecting procedures using a wide variety of standard cleaning products for medical environments including but not limited to hydrogen peroxide (3% solution), bleach (10% solution, not to be used on metal charging contacts), and isopropyl alcohol (91% solution).
3 Indispensable Practices
- Establish a Regular Disinfecting Schedule - In addition to choosing the right chemical cleaners, it is important to establish an appropriate cadence for cleaning and disinfecting your phone. In many cases, it’s not enough to clean/disinfect once per day. The timing and frequency of cleanings will depend on where and how the mobile device is used. For example, phones used in patient rooms should be disinfected at a higher frequency compared to phones used in other locations throughout a hospital.
- Consider integrating UV enclosures for frequently used assets - In medical environments, germicidal ultraviolet (UV) systems can also be employed as an additional safeguard against HAIs. UV germicidal enclosures can deliver a kill rate greater than 99.99% for the toughest contaminants. Because of their effectiveness, UV boxes are an additional safeguard against HAIs and can fill the gaps in hospitals’ infection prevention protocols. However, while ultraviolet light destroys viruses, bacteria, and spores, it also may damage plastics; therefore, your healthcare smartphones should be designed specifically for healthcare use with higher durability standards to endure constant disinfection.
- Frequently wash your hands - Every time you pick up your phone, you can transfer microorganisms from your hands to the surface of the device. Follow CDC guidelines for hand washing, including using both soap and water for at least 20 seconds, to help reduce the risk of harmful pathogens building up on the phone between device cleaning/disinfecting.
For more best practice insights on keeping your healthcare facility safe, contact us here.