May 18 2020

Washing Your Hands Is Important. So Is Cleaning Your Healthcare Devices

The current global health crisis has created an unprecedented challenge in infection control for healthcare providers.

The onset of coronavirus has brought with it an increased focus on washing one’s hands and sanitizing high-touch areas; however, an often-overlooked source of infection, particularly in healthcare environments, is mobile devices

A 2018 study conducted by Binghamton University finds that approximately two-thirds of healthcare workers suspect their mobile devices foster bacteria, yet nearly 90 percent never clean their phones. To better protect themselves and their patients, frontline workers and first responders should take the time necessary to disinfect devices in use. But — like so many things in healthcare — there is a proper way to do so.

Here are some best practices healthcare workers should adopt to clean their devices properly and reduce the spread of germs.

How to Sanitize Your Devices

Merely wiping down a device’s surface, such as the screen or buttons of a smartphone, tablet or scanner, is not always enough to kill bacteria. And using improper cleaning solutions like rubbing alcohol or infectant wipes can cause damage to the tool’s screen, charging port and more.

Even after visible fingerprints have been cleaned off, mobile device surfaces can remain covered with germs. A study by the University of Arizona concluded that most cellphones carry 10 times the bacteria of the average toilet seat.

Before implementing any sort of device cleaning protocol, however, healthcare organizations should consider each tool’s unique components and cleaning needs. Staff should consult their device user guides, taking into account proper cleaning techniques and sanitizing agents to properly disinfect their tools for safe deployment within a healthcare setting. 

Once these measures are taken into account, healthcare organizations should implement a device cleaning policy as soon as they’re able, using the original device suppliers’ guidelines. For users who may have lost or misplaced their original user guides, healthcare device manufacturers are striving to help.

Some manufacturers, for example, have provided guidelines on their website for users to download and implement for effective device cleaning. These guidelines list everything from step-by-step cleaning instructions to the approved cleaning agents that should be used with each device model, and often include the purity or formulation levels for each ingredient as well as noting which cleaning agents can cause damage and should be avoided.

Guidelines such as these will ensure that employees are properly disinfecting their mobile computers, scanners and printers regularly. It is important to implement these processes and best practices so that staff are fully aligned and better protected. In addition, laying out an informed cleaning policy can reassure third parties, such as patients or insurance providers, that formal measures have been taken to help prevent shared technology devices from becoming a potential source of virus transmission.

Nevena1987/Getty Images

Become an Insider

Unlock white papers, personalized recommendations and other premium content for an in-depth look at evolving IT