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Author: Ramesh et al. Source: Journal of Hospital Infection 2008, 70: 160−165


Ramesh et al.

Use of mobile phones by medical staff at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Barbados: evidence for both benefit and harm

Background: Today, mobile phones are often part of healthcare providers’ equipment and are commonly used for communication in clinical settings. However, the use of mobile phones is linked to the risk of cross contamination, particularly when no effective disinfection is carried out.

The study conducted at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH), Barbados investigated the patterns of mobile phone use, the place of use and cleaning by medical personnel. For this, healthcare professionals, including students, were asked to fill in a questionnaire. Swabs were taken from all participants’ phones. Healthcare providers working close to sensitive equipment were also surveyed concerning adverse events associated with mobile phones. In addition, telephone operators were asked to monitor the time elapsed as they attempted to contact medical staff by various methods.

Results: Of the 266 persons who received a questionnaire, 116 completed it (response rate = 44 %). Almost all participants (98 %) used mobile phones: 67 % used their mobile phones for hospital-related matters; 47 % reported also using their phone while attending patients. Only 3 % reported that they wash hands after mobile phone use; 53 % stated that they never clean their phone. A total of 101 mobile phones were cultured for microorganisms. 45 % were culture-positive and 15 % grew Gram-negative pathogens. The evaluation of the survey of employees working in close proximity to electronic devices revealed one report of minor interference only. The survey among telephone operators showed that they were able to contact medical staff within 2 minutes most easily by mobile phone.

Conclusions: The authors recommend providing clear guidance on the correct use of mobile phones to medical staff. Emphasis of such a campaign should be good hygiene and the advice not to use mobile phone near electronic devices.

Journal of Hospital Infection 2008, 70: 160−165

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