The WHY and HOW of Disinfecting and Cleaning Mobile Devices in Healthcare Environments

Revised: September 10, 2020

Datamation Systems, a leading manufacturer of smart docking solutions for mobile devices (i.e. smart phones, tablets, batteries, etc.) would like to provide suggestions for the disinfection and periodic cleaning of our devices when used by healthcare institutions.   Working with our healthcare customers and sanitizing expert partners, we’ve gathered information on why it’s important to properly disinfect our smart hubs and the mobile devices they support as well as common methods used by the industry that are safe and economical.    If you have any questions, feel free to contact us at info@datamationsystemsinc.com 

Why Disinfect

 Mobile device use is now fundamental to virtually all healthcare operations and emergency response operations.  Certainly the same can be said for many other environments including clinics, mobile testing centers and nursing homes.   Institutions are taking a hard look at potential device contamination and ways to disinfect or sterilize exterior surfaces.   

According the a recent study in The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, “Of fifty-three cell phones, 83% (forty-four cell phones) had pathogenic bacteria at initial testing, 8% (four cell phones) had pathogenic bacteria after disinfection, and 75% (forty cell phones) had pathogenic bacteria one week later.” 1  This study concluded that a majority of cellphones used by surgeons had high levels of bacteria and organic matter contamination.   It was also determined that even a single cleaning using anti-bacterial wipes would mitigate potential infection spread to both healthcare professionals and their patients.   

Recommendations  

Let’s begin with two important terms:  Cleaning and Disinfecting.   According to the CDC: 

  • Cleaning refers to the removal of germs, dirt, and impurities from surfaces. It does not kill germs, but by removing them, it lowers their numbers and the risk of spreading infection. 
  • Disinfecting refers to using chemicals (for example, EPA-registered disinfectants) to kill germs on surfaces. This process does not necessarily clean dirty surfaces or remove germs, but, by killing germs on a surface after cleaning, it can further lower the risk of spreading infection. 

Options for Disinfecting

For most healthcare institutions we recommend the use of sanitizing wipes which are also what the vast majority of our healthcare customers use.  This provides a good basis for disinfecting the surfaces of devices as well as our smart docking, mobile device managers.  For specific guidelines on the use of sanitizing wipes, we recommend you review the CDC Guidelines “Six Steps for Safe & Effective Disinfectant Use (PDF)

Not sure what method to use?  The New York Times published an interesting article, “Cleaning the Mobile Germ Warehouse”, which gives some interesting advice and recommendations for addressing device contamination and disinfection treatment methods.  Click here

Types of surface cleaners used by healthcare professionals

    • Sanitizing Wipes
      • PDI Super Sani-Cloth (Purple, Red, Orange, Green/Blueish), Gray, White
        Clorox Hydrogen Peroxide (Green)
      • Clorox Disinfecting Wipes
      • CaviWipes and CaviWipes XL
      • Cal Tech Dispatch (With bleach)
      • Lysol Wipes
    • Liquid-based Disinfectants
      •  Alcohol (Isopropyl/Isopropanol 70-85%)
      • Ethanol 85%
      • Virkon S 1%
      • Aseptix (H2O2)
      • Bleach – 5.25%–8.25% sodium hypochlorite. (Concentration of solution very important. Apple does not recommend Bleach in concentrations higher than 9%.)
      • Anti-bacterial solutions
        • ProCide D Plus 3.4% Glutaraldehyde
        • Chlorhexidin 0.5 mg/ml
        • DAX Ytdesinfektion Plus
    • Soap/Water/Detergent

Most of our customers use Apple mobile devices, including iPhones and iPads and Apple has published guidelines for cleaning and disinfecting.   It is important to review this information as it provides specific guidance for different models and their construction.

Apple Revised Guidance:  Using a 70 percent isopropyl alcohol wipe or Clorox Disinfecting Wipes, you may gently wipe the exterior surfaces of your iPhone. Don’t use bleach in concentrations of 9% or higher. Avoid getting moisture in any openings, and don’t submerge your iPhone in any cleaning agents.

There are several makers of protective cases that can be aggressively disinfected without damaging the mobile devices.  These include such companies as Future Nova and CODE.

*Datamation Systems recommends the use of 70% alcohol on the accessible surfaces of all our devices.   As noted above, proper safety procedures need to be followed when using any type of disinfectant.

EPA Recommendations

For additional resources, the EPA has provided a comprehensive list:  Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19.  It is beyond the scope of this article to review each and determine if they are safe for use with mobile devices.

Other Types Disinfecting (iPads and Large Mobiles)

Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation (UVGI) – UV light is one of the most effective and proven methods for sterilization.  Used by many industries for water, air treatment and filtration; any application in which the destruction (oxidation) of organic matter is required.

Datamation Systems has worked with key partners in the field of UV-C treatment of industrial equipment including Seal Shield.  Unlike consumer UV products, the ElectroClave™ by Seal Shield™  is capable of treating large numbers of smart phones and tablets.

According to the Seal Shield:

Clean hands should carry clean devices. ElectroClave™ by Seal Shield™ is the first of its kind all-in-one solution for 360-degree UV-C sanitation and mobile device management for medical-grade disinfection in any environment. MERSA and ‘superbugs’ have always been a constant threat.

American Journal Infection Control

One additional study which is worth mentioning was conducted by the American Journal of Infection Control which focused on iPads.  Click here to read this study.    Although this study was limited in scope, it does offer some guidance with respect to tablet use and contamination.

iPad Use for Patient Engagement and Virtual Patient Visits

With the ever-increasing number of Patient Engagement and Patient Virtual Visit programs, iPads are now a major part of the healthcare device ecosystem.  Datamation offers several UniDock and other charge and storage configurations for iPads and it’s important to consider how to disinfectant these devices since they typically are used by patients and front-line caregivers.   Seal Shield’s ElectroClave cabinets can treat these devices as part of the device management and charging workflow.  If you would like more information, give us a call 201-329-7200 or email info@datmationsystemsinc.com to discuss these applications.

Common Healthcare Disinfecting Methods Not Suitable For Electronics

Conclusion

We hope you found this short guide helpful.  As technology changes, we will update the information.   Based on all prevailing information and studies, nearly all shared medical equipment, including smart phones and smart docking devices, will have some level of contamination.  Anything from mechanically wiping the surface to UV treatment is important to prevent cross-contamination and negative health outcomes.

Feel free to send your comments and suggestions to dgonzalez@datmationsystemsinc.com.

Dag Gonzalez
Datamation Systems, Inc.
125 Louis Street
South Hackensack, NJ 07606
dgonzalez@datamationsystemsinc.com
(p) 201-329-7200 ext. 243
(f) 201-329-7272

References:

1 APA Shakir, Irshad A. MD1; Patel, Nirav H. MD2; Chamberland, Robin R. PhD3; Kaar, Scott G. MD1 Investigation of Cell Phones as a Potential Source of Bacterial Contamination in the Operating Room, The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery: February 4, 2015 – Volume 97 – Issue 3 – p 225-231 doi: 10.2106/JBJS.N.00523