How Mobile Device Policies Must Focus on Controlling Contamination

Rhonda Collins

Guest post by Rhonda Collins, MSN, RN, chief nursing officer of Vocera.

Studies show that cell phones can carry more bacteria than a toilet seat. This is a disturbing topic for anyone, but should be duly noted by those of us in healthcare. With hospital cell phone policies changing, it’s crucial that we focus on infection control as a priority for any mobile communication device in the hospital. A Spyglass Consulting Group survey revealed that regardless of a hospital’s device policy, staff nurses are using personal smartphones to support clinical communications and workflow. In addition, a whopping 51 percent of hospitals plan to invest in or evaluate their smartphone solutions over the next 18 months.

This movement toward a more mobile healthcare workforce is an exciting change that will allow clinicians to become more connected to both patients and colleagues. While this change will make a sizeable impact on the way that hospitals operate, devices that are surrounded by the sickest patients are of greater concern as they can transfer bacteria both to and from the patient. This poses potential harm to everyone in the environment.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that one out of every 25 hospital patients contracts a healthcare-associated infection (HAI). This means that about 722,000 patients face hospital acquired infections annually. The most common HAI that hospitals are seeing today include pneumonia (22 percent), surgical site infections (22 percent), gastrointestinal infections (17 percent), urinary tract infections (13 percent) and bloodstream infections (10 percent), all urgent and uncomfortable situations that pose a major threat to patient safety.

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