White, Stephen, Humphreys, Paul and Topping, Annie (2015) Evaluating Mobile Device Cleaning Policies in the NHS. In: Infection Prevention Society Conference 2015, 28th - 30th September 2015, Liverpool, UK.

The use of mobile devices within healthcare settings by staff, patients and visitors is widespread and growing. DoH guidance states that patients should be allowed the widest possible use of mobile phones. For staff mobile devices have become an essential aspect of their day-to-day professional and personal lives. There is, however, clear evidence that phones/tablets can be contaminated with pathogens, which may survive for prolonged periods before being transferred onto hands or other surfaces.
A FoI request for “all current policies or guidelines that make reference to the use and management of mobile phones and tablet devices in the healthcare environment, by staff, service users, and visitors – this applies to both personal and institutionally-owned devices”, was sent to NHS institutions across England, Scotland and Wales with a response rate of 96% (n=252).
22% of organisations had no policy in place, with ≈11% stating that this would be considered policy reviews. Organisations that acknowledged the issue responded that staff were informed of disinfection procedures: e.g. ‘the normal cleaning schedule’ or the use of universal sanitizing/detergent wipes. Many organisations referred to their Cleaning and Decontamination policy, however none of these explicitly mentioned mobile devices. Instead, the general advice for electrical devices was to follow manufacturer’s instructions, as using any other process might invalidate warranties. Where specific cleaning policies were in place they advocated the use of ‘general purpose/universal detergent wipes’ without any technical justification. Multiple organisations suggested that existing hand decontamination procedures were sufficient to address this issue.
There is no consistency in infection control advice regarding the potential risks posed by the use of mobile devices. Regular cleaning may be a solution, but there is little evidence evaluating the available methods. The literature in this field calls for clear evidence-based guidelines for cleaning and disinfecting mobile devices.

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