Tackling the not-so-clean touchscreen

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Melanie Waddell, Director of Marketing for PDI, Inc
Melanie Waddell, Director of Marketing for PDI, Inc

Healthcare professionals recognize that long-term care facilities should be a safe haven for healing, not a breeding ground for germs. But there is an unexpected, omnipresent culprit lurking and often overlooked amid even the most thorough cleaning: the touchscreen.

To ward off risk, everyone takes precautionary measures, from those in environmental services who follow regimented surface cleaning practices, to the doctors and nurses who are required to wash their hands every time they enter or exit a room. But from personal smartphones to x-ray and glucometer screens to a whole host of other portable tablets, these ever-present surfaces are a big problem. Environmental contamination leads to one in 25 hospital patients falling victim to a healthcare-associated infection every day, according to the Centers  for Disease Control and Prevention.

Just how dangerous can a touchscreen be? If not cleaned properly, bacteria can survive for months on the surface of a touchscreen device. According to a study published in the American Journal of Infection Control in 2011, harmful strains such as MRSA, Staphylococcus, and Streptococcus spp can linger on devices and put patients at risk of infection. Such HAIs, in addition to posing a significant public health risk, also cost hospitals billions of dollars in reduced reimbursements and preventable expenditures every year, according to the CDC.

When it comes to warding off the HAIs that can stem from germ-infested touchscreens, proper cleaning is the most impactful course of action. To make that happen, communication and preparedness is key. Here are a few measures you can take to ensure that staff is properly cleaning risky screens:

  1. Alert them to the issue. In our current age of 24-7 connectivity, doctors, nurses and other hospital personnel are rarely without their personal electronic devices, but may not be aware of just how easily the transfer of bacteria-laden fingerprints to phones or tablets can put all of us at risk. Clear and consistent education about the risks will bring the reality to their attention.

  2. Provide proper tools with which they can take action. Place appropriate, compatible cleaning wipes, such as  PDI's Easy Screen® Cleaning Wipe, in easily accessible, high-traffic areas where doctors and nurses are encouraged to clean their screens. This effortless access, combined with the visual reminder, will help keep the actionable issue top of mind.

  3. Empower your team with knowledge of best practices for tackling screen hygiene. Products kill bugs, but people prevent infections™. It's not enough to have the right cleaning solutions in the room if frequent screen users aren't taking ownership of their important role every day.

Taking a stand against the risk of HAIs is an area of constant interaction with personal touchscreen devices means that doctors, nurses, environmental service professionals and patients need to ask themselves how often they clean their screen. With this knowledge comes the empowerment – and sense of responsibility – to wipe their screens clean, and take a stand against potentially dangerous bacteria.

Melanie Waddell is the Director of Marketing for PDI Inc. For an infographic on the touchscreen, click here.

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