Here at Health Care Communication News, it seems as if nearly every day we learn of new mobile apps to help physicians, nurses, and patients. We run
across stories about how hospitals and medical practices use iPads and mobile devices to diagnose, educate, and even entertain patients.
But some here is some news that casts a shadow on these glimmers of health care hope. Those mobile devices might be harboring all sorts of bad stuff.
An Information Week article tells
of the infection control issues tablet devices, such as iPads, present.
"I don't expect this to stabilize," says Charles Colander, CIO at Elmhurst Memorial, in Elmhurst, Ill. He wonders if devices designed for consumers
should be purchased by hospitals.
"They're just not medical grade, so infection control is a big challenge," Colander says. "At least if the doctor buys it for himself, some of that
goes away because he's the only one handling it."
Colander says the Panasonic Toughbook H1 "may not be as sexy as the iPad," but it is designed for hospital use, which allows for routine disinfection,
and it includes a stylus instead of a touch screen.
John Curin, head of the health care practice at IT consulting firm Burwood, says iPad commercials show doctors using the tablet to view diagnostic
images, but says, "It's obviously not a health care device. I couldn't disinfect it if I wanted to."
Those who defend iPads argue the sleek case and lack of a keyboard mean fewer nooks and crannies where bacteria can hide. Dr. John Halamka, the CIO of
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston says the iPad is "completely disinfectable," and that wiping it with disinfecting solution doesn't seem
to harm it, even though Apple advises against doing so.
It used to be you couldn't use your cell phone in a hospital because its signals might interfere with medical equipment. These days, there may be another worry.
A mobihealthnews article tells of a study in the American Journal of Infection Control, which shows
cell phones carried by patients and visitors were nearly twice as likely as the mobile phones of health workers to carry pathogens. Patient phones also
showed higher rates of multidrug-resistant bacteria, including MRSA.
The study at Inonu University in Turkey tested keypads, microphones, and earpieces of 200 cell phones. Of those,
67 belonged to hospital employees and 133 to patients and other hospital visitors.
Almost 40 percent of patient phones harbored harmful bacteria, while only a little more than 20 percent of phones belonging to workers did. I'd prefer
both of those numbers to be zero, though, wouldn't you?
The research team says this suggests that infection control efforts are working for health care personnel and should be extended to patients and
Hospital-acquired infections affect at least one-fourth of inpatients in developing countries, such as Turkey. In the U.S., 1.7 million such infections
lead to an estimated 100,000 deaths annually.
Does your organization have any rules regarding use of mobile devices as they relate to infection control? If so, please tell us how you communicate