study explores patient safety issue concerning tablet cpus

Over the last few years, more and more hospitals and doctor’s offices across the nation have made the transition to electronic medical records. This, of course, means that the complete medical histories of patients as well as any correspondence are now readily accessible to providers on devices like laptop computers and, more commonly, tablet computers.

While much of the debate concerning electronic medical records and the use of these devices has heretofore focused on cyber security, a recently released study by researchers in North Dakota will more than likely serve to change this.

Performed by researchers from Sanford Health, the University of North Dakota and North Dakota State University, the study set out to examine whether the tablet computers that have become a fixture of so many exam rooms across the nation are actually acting as vectors of potentially dangerous germs.

The study, published in the American Journal of Infection Control, determined that many tablet computers did indeed carry a significant number of germs. In fact, several even tested positive for the presence of dangerous pathogens like methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Clostridium difficile (C. diff).

For those unfamiliar with an MRSA infection, it is defined by the Mayo Clinic as a potentially deadly infection that is “caused by a strain of staph bacteria that’s become resistant to the antibiotics commonly used to treat ordinary staph infections.” Similarly, a C. diff infection is defined as a “bacterium that can cause [serious] symptoms and typically occurs after use of antibiotic medications.”

Fortunately, the researchers found that certain sanitation measures can go a long way toward eliminating the presence of these germs on tablet computers. For instance, they found that a damp cloth proved effective in eliminating a multitude of germs, while alcohol/germodidal wipes proved effective in controlling MRSA, and bleach wipes proved effective in controlling C. diff.

In light of these findings, the researchers recommended that medical professionals in hospitals, doctor’s offices and other settings consider taking the following steps to keep their tablet computers safe for all patients:

  • Always practice basic hygiene, including frequent hand washing or use of hand sanitizer.
  • Use nonporous covers for tablet computers as they can be wiped down safely and easily with either alcohol or bleach wipes.
  • Do not take tablet computers into areas where possibly infected patients are present.
  • At a minimum, wipe the tablet computer screen with a microfiber cloth every day.
  • Purchase disposable screen covers and change them at regular intervals.

What are your thoughts on this story? Will it lead you to ask your providers about how often they wipe down their screens? Will it change how you handle your tablet computer at home?

Please consider speaking with an experienced and dedicated attorney if you or a loved one has suffered unduly because of a hospital-acquired infection.

Source: The Pioneer Press, “Germy iPads dangerous in hospitals, researchers say,” Patrick Springer, Jan. 6, 2013

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