When was the last time you observed a healthcare worker (HCW) making notes in a patient’s chart using good old pen and paper on a clipboard? Personally, I can’t remember the last time I encountered this. However, if I were to ask when was the last time that you observed a HCW utilizing a smart phone, tablet PC or portable computer workstation at a patient’s bedside, I’m certain most of you would indicate that this is something much more common in today’s healthcare environment. Fact is, electronic devices such as smart phones, tablets and portable computers have become increasingly important tools for the delivery of healthcare services. Not surprisingly, many of these items are subsequently at risk of becoming contaminated and acting as a source for the transmission of microorganisms.
Infection prevention and control related associations such as CHICA-CANADA (Community and Hospital Infection Control Association) have recognized the proliferation of electronic device use and have done their part to establish guidelines and publish their recommendations for electronic devices in healthcare settings. Needless to say, hand hygiene continues to be the most important factor for preventing the transmission of microorganisms and contamination of the device itself. Patrick Boshell of Deb spoke to this in his recent blog titled, “Your Mobile Phone is Dirtier Than You Think”. By diligently following the WHO’s 5 Moments of Hand Hygiene a HCW is most likely to prevent the contamination of the device and reduce the potential transmission of any microorganisms that may be lurking on the shiny touchscreen.
Taking into account that most HCWs are not 100% compliant with hand hygiene, the remainder of CHICA-Canada’s recommendations are centered around the act of effectively cleaning and disinfecting the device itself and ensuring that the device is accompanied by clear instructions on how to do so. Which brings us to some of the questions that have inundated my email inbox over the past 18-24 months, “How do we clean our iPads?”, “Is this disinfectant approved for use on iPhone or Blackberry?”...etc. In fact, in the course of writing this blog I have received just such an inquiry from an Infection Preventionist at a prominent Boston area facility. Boy, do I wish I had an easy answer for her and everyone else that poses these questions. Unfortunately, many of these devices were simply not developed with their healthcare use in mind and therefore they are not accompanied with cleaning and disinfection directions nor a list of approved disinfectants. Until the manufacturers of these commonly used electronic devices recognize the importance of validating cleaning and disinfection procedures and the chemical solutions utilized, healthcare end-users will be required to perform their own risk assessments to determine a solution for the situation. In other words, are there means to mitigate the risk of transmission without having to clean the device? Or, can the healthcare facility make a simple judgement call that the risk of not cleaning the device far out-weighs the risk of damaging the device with long-term use of cleaning and disinfectant solutions?
Hasta la vista!