How Dirty is Your Phone?–Evaluating Healthcare Workers' Cell Phone Use & Cleanliness in an Ambulatory Clinic

Date

2021

Authors

Li, Jeffrey
Reynolds, Conner
Lindsley, Joshua
Sankar, Aparna
Perez, Aaron
Wolstein, Austin
Williams, Trevor
Ingram, Aubrey
Gelinas, Lillee
Jowitt, Janet

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Abstract

Purpose: Preventable medical errors are the 3rd leading cause of death in the United States, accounting for 251,000 lives annually. Healthcare-acquired infections (HAIs) account for nearly 40% of this population, costing the healthcare system $28.4-33.8 billion each year. Current monitoring efforts have set their focus on device-associated infections. Given the rising prevalence of clinicians using smartphones, these may also be contributing to infectious spread. Phase 1 of this initiative found that health professional students use their phones in the restroom, clean it less than once weekly, and are unlikely to remove the case. These behaviors were associated with surface contamination levels exceeding cleanliness benchmarks by 3-to-17 fold. Phase 2 aims to repeat this paradigm in healthcare workers. Methods: Using an interval sampling model, healthcare workers at the UNTHSC Health Pavilion completed a survey and had their cellphone swabbed during normal business hours. Contamination levels were assessed using ATP Luminometery, an established test for surface cleanliness. Results: Healthcare workers were likely to use their cellphones in clinic. They were unlikely to use their cellphone in patient rooms or restrooms, but also unlikely to clean them at the end of each workday. Healthcare workers were very likely to wash their hands in all instances. Cellphone surfaces exceeded cleanliness benchmarks by 2-to-9 fold. Conclusions: Cellphones may improve care delivery by providing quick access to resources but are easily contaminated and rarely disinfected. Despite their utility, more work is needed to ensure safe cellphone use in healthcare.

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Research Appreciation Day Award Winner - 2021 SaferCare Texas, Excellence in Patient Safety Research Award - 1st Place
Research Appreciation Day Award Winner - 2021 SaferCare Texas, Excellence in Patient Safety Research Award - 1st Place

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