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Should mobile devices be used in clinical environments?
On a recent visit to a colleague's practice, I noticed most of the staff carried with them and regularly used their mobile phones in the clinical environment. Whilst all the staff had pristine, personal protective equipment and lockers were present for ensuring regular wear and personal items are stored away from treatment areas, mobile electronic devices seemed to have free passage and use in all areas of the practice. The use of mobiles in healthcare environments always surprises me especially as research suggests that these devices harbour up to 25000 microbes per square inch including E. coli and MSRA. In fact, mobile devices are more contaminated than toilet seats and doorknobs. They create a warm environment for germs to breed and as most people never clean their phones the bacterial count mounts up. The movement of germs from hands, ears, skin and phone occurs freely thus potentially spreading infection. Phones are very often used in the bathroom and also regularly passed between friends. Phones are also commonly used on public transport which increases the chance of transferring much more germs onto the phone.
Dental practices take great pride in ensuring their decontamination processes are maintained to a high standard. It would appear that using mobile devices in clinical environments greatly compromise this strict regime. All staff should be made aware of this weak point and measures should be in place to restrict the use of mobile devices in clinical areas. Hygiene is also important and includes the use of alcohol wipes or simple tissues which may be used wet or dry. Phone cleaning kits and ultraviolet cleaning kits may also be useful. The most important method of reducing bacterial load on phones is proper hand hygiene. This should be audited regularly in the practice and will be discussed in detail in the next article.
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