Healthcare-associated infections (HAI) regularly lead to lost revenue, poor surgical outcomes and have a negative impact on the reputation of ambulatory surgery centers. According to a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey, about one in 25 acute care hospital patients develops at least a single HAI. An estimated 722,000 HAIs occurred in acute care hospitals in the U.S. in 2011 alone. Mobile devices are an increasingly common source of HAIs in surgical facilities. While these convenient tools provide physicians with a number of benefits, without proper disinfection, the risks outweigh the benefits. Studies show that most mobile devices are dirtier than the bottom of a shoe — and even a toilet. In fact, research published by Annals of Clinical Microbiology and Antimicrobials indicates that over 90 percent of smartphones are contaminated with potentially dangerous bacteria. Properly handling and disinfecting mobile devices can lead to cleaner facilities and safer patients. A number of mobile device disinfection techniques can be used to ensure facilities are kept as clean as possible. Providers should consider the following when developing a mobile device policy:
The best way to prevent the spread of pathogens on mobile devices is to leave electronics at home. However, that’s not always a viable option. While pagers are mostly nonexistent in healthcare settings today, many physicians and nurses now use cell phones to communicate with their coworkers. When using a mobile phone is necessary, hands-free devices — wireless headsets, for example — effectively prevent the spread of pathogens. Bluetooth headsets produce high-quality audio, allowing physicians to safely and efficiently communicate while they work. It is important that providers choose devices that do not interfere with their ability to function. According to the CDC’s 2008 Guideline for Disinfection and Sterilization in Healthcare Facilities, mobile devices are noncritical items — objects that “come in contact with intact skin but not mucous membranes.” Noncritical items can be disinfected with intermediate-level disinfectants: phenolic, iodophor, alcohol or chlorine.
In addition to washing their hands both before and after treating patients, there are a number of ways in which providers can ensure their mobile devices are kept clean. In its guidelines for disinfecting noncritical items, the CDC recommends using an EPA-registered disinfectant that successfully protects against viruses, bacteria and fungi. Using disinfecting wipes to thoroughly clean devices is easy and effective. Antimicrobial technology — a protective plastic coating — also can be used to clean mobile devices. Such coating technology has the ability to reduce microbes by over 99 percent. Using antimicrobial technology is a way for providers to proactively protect patients from germs. Antimicrobial plastic coating does not interfere with device functionality in any way. UV sanitizing devices are an additional way to disinfect mobile technology. UV-C wavelength light — the specific type of light used in UV sanitizing devices — is effective in destroying germ DNA and preventing microorganisms from reproducing.
Training and education
Without a comprehensive device policy and education program, facilities are likely to have a high post-surgical infection rate. Every ASC staff member should receive training on how to sanitize mobile devices. It is important to stress the exact standards ASC employees must abide by: when and how disinfection should take place. In order to ensure site policies are being followed, procedures to monitor sanitization processes should be implemented. Given their negative impact on surgical outcomes, HAIs should be considered a major concern for all ASCs. Having a firm mobile device policy in place could not only potentially save your ASC thousands of dollars in the long run, but also keep patients safe.
For more information about mobile device policy, please contact Amiee Mingus at firstname.lastname@example.org.