Personal Device Hygiene

Our personal digital devices (smart phones, tablets, smart watches, laptops, etc.; collectively BYOD - Bring Your Own Device) are continuously with us. In clinical environments, this means that they can act like fomites. How can we reduce the risk of a BYOD device transmitting communicable disease?

In truth, proper care of a personal device can pose less risk than communal devices with surfaces that many clinicians touch. However, we must take care to wash hands, or sanitize, before each mobile device use. This does not change the imperative to wash/sanitize hands before and after any patient contact and to not use mobile devices while interacting with patients. In addition, appropriate device care can decrease the likelihood of microbe re-introduction and transport.

Smartphones and Tablets

Smartphone and tablet manufacturers provide advice about how the device screen and any keypad can be cleaned for clinical purpose. A common denominator is application of a better-quality screen-protector. Devices brought into clinical environments should have screen protectors as these are less likely to be damaged than native screens. 

Chlorhexidine/alcohol (Sani-Cloth) and Clorox wipes are most effective without causing damage. Isopropanol wipes are less effective. Antimicrobial cleaning works best if a device is free of debris. This is best removed by periodically cleaning (e.g., recent generation iPhones and Android devices are water-resistant) with a microfibre cloth dampened with soapy water (squeeze to make sure that fluid will not get into device openings) or a 70% alcohol/water solution. Again, a screen protector ensures that the device screen is not damaged.

Laptop Computers

The keyboards of laptop computers can tolerate disinfectant wipes as long as excess moisture is squeezed out first, thus avoiding liquid seeping under keys and gaining access to sensitive components.

As much as possible, one should emulate AHS standards for cleaning non-medical devices: