How Dirty is Your Phone?—Linking Restroom Behavior to Cell Phone Contamination at a Health Science Center

Reynolds, Conner
Lindsley, Joshua
Williams, Trevor
Underwood, Jacob
Jowitt, Janet Dr.
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
  1. Purpose Preventable medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the United States annually, 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 efforts monitoring sources of HAI have set their focus on device-associated infections (i.e. central line, catheter, and ventilator-associated infections). Yet, in a recent Multistate Point-Prevalence Survey of Health Care-Associated Infections, device-associated HAI only accounted for 25.6% of instances detected. The rising prevalence of smartphone usage has also prompted researchers to target mobile phones as potential vectors for infectious transmission in healthcare. One potential area accounting for significant cellphone contamination is use in restrooms.
  2. Methods In the present study, we surveyed students for their restroom cell phone usage. Following the survey, we then assessed the degree of contamination using an ATP Luminometer.
  3. Results Using an ATP luminometer to measure surface contamination, students’ phones demonstrated an average level of 1702.09 ± 165.90 RLU/100 cm2. When correlating these contamination levels with survey behavior, some interesting things begin to emerge. There was a significant protective effect of hand washing, with a higher likelihood of washing leading to lower contamination levels (rs(101) = -.172, p
  4. Conclusion Cell phones offer a world of information at the provider’s fingertips, allowing for higher quality care than ever before. However, these can easily become contaminated and are rarely disinfected. Taken together, the results of this study establish some of the first evidence for cell phone use behavior leading to surface contamination. To prevent these new smart devices from becoming fomites for infectious spread, it is the responsibility of health systems to implement cleaning protocols. This may reduce the overall rate of HAIs and preventable medical errors for patients across the United States.
Research Appreciation Day Award Winner - 2019 SaferCare Texas, Excellence in Patient Safety Research Award - 1st Place Poster