One more home for hospital germs—paper
Study shows how long bacteria live and how well they travel on paper.
If your physician's practice or hospital isn't using an electronic medical record (EMR) yet, here is one more reason to make the switch. Getting away
from paper can help protect you and your patients against germs.
We've shared several stories about the places germs hide in health care facilities—mobile devices, privacy curtains, remote controls and more. We wrote a story about a hospital that uses UV to kill germs. And hand washing videos? Heck, we've done so many stories on them that we lost
count ages ago.
Earlier this year, The Los Angeles Times shared how doctors' and nurses' uniforms can
harbor germs. Recently, The Times reported on a study showing that paper
records are harboring germs, too, and you won't believe how long they can stay alive.
The study in Germany
shows that bacteria can stay alive on paper for three days and "[be] easily transferred from paper to hand and back to paper," The Times says.
After a week, bacteria can still be cultivated from paper.
The study's authors say, "Once contaminated, paper is hard to disinfect because it cannot be disinfected by chemical means, as other inanimate surfaces
For now, those handling paper need to continue to keep washing those hands, and once they do move to EMRs, they'll need to keep that up and disinfect
computers and mobile devices.
So, what's the answer? UV may help. Washable devices, too, perhaps? A 2010 LiveScience.com article told how one hospital went to washable
keyboards in some areas.