Mobile Phones: Reservoirs of Nosocomial Pathogens

Is your phone “bugged”? How “germy” is your phone? When was the last time you cleaned it? These are valid questions, considering that doctors bring their phones everywhere!

A study by Ulger et al. entitled “Are we aware how contaminated our mobile phones with nosocomial pathogens?” provides some answers.  Two hundred health care workers’ hands and mobile phones were cultured. These health personnel worked at the OR and ICU.  Eeeww, the bacterial contamination rate of mobile phones was a whopping 94.5%! Predictably, similar bacteria were isolated from phones and hands. Nearly half (49%) of the phones had one bacterial species while 34% had two different species.  And alarmingly, some of the phone isolates were resistant strains: 31.3% of the gram negatives were ceftazidime-resistant and 52% of the S. aureus strains were methicillin-resistant.

Only 10.5% of the participants routinely cleaned their phones. So that meant 89.5% never cleaned their phones, yucch!  Interestingly, participants who wore rings tended to have higher mean colony counts on their phones though it was not statistically significant.  The authors conclude that,

“Mobile phones used by health care workers in daily practice may be a source of nosocomial infections in hospitals.”

Obviously, we can’t ban cell phones from the hospital environment. But this serves as a reminder to all of us that we should not only adhere to the hospital’s hand washing policy but clean our phones regularly as well.  I don’t want to advertise anything here but one can find several phone-disinfecting wipes on the market. :)


Ulger F, Esen S, Dilek A et al. Are we aware how contaminated our mobile phones with nosocomial pathogens? Annals of Clinical Microbiology & Antimicrobials 2009, 8:7


Informatics and the Practice of Medicine

Last May, I gave a presentation on how physicians can make better use of smartphones at the annual convention of the Philippine College of Physicians. This was one of the introductory slides I used.  The points of the star enumerate the new competencies for health professionals as written in the Institute of Medicine document entitled “Health Professions Education: A Bridge to Quality (2003).” This document opines that to deliver ideal care in the 21st century,

“All health professionals should be educated to deliver patient-centered care as members of an interdisciplinary team, emphasizing evidence-based practice, quality improvement approaches, and informatics.”

What is informatics, in particular what is health informatics?

Health informatics is the study and application of methods to improve the management of patient data, medical knowledge, population data and other information relevant to patient care and community health.

Wyatt JC & Liu JLY. J Epidemiol Community Health 2002;56:808-12

I truly believe that informatics will be increasingly important in the practice of medicine. I’m trying to finish my thesis for an MS in Health Informatics: Design and Implementation of a Prototype Web-based Self-Instructional Module. If (!) and when I complete it :) I hope to make a small contribution to educating physicians of the future!