9 Stats on Cell Phone Cleaning in Hospitals: Results from Our Survey of 100 Nurses

Author: PDI Healthcare

Categories: General Infection Prevention May 20, 2020
Nurse with Cell Phone

Since the release of the first iPhone, smartphones quickly infiltrated the healthcare environment. For many healthcare workers (HCWs), they bring a lot of value and make life easier by facilitating patient education and streamlining personal and professional communications.

But mobile devices can be a double-edged sword. While easy to use and carry everywhere, many studies have shown that cell phones can act as reservoirs of bacterial and viral contamination, with the potential for transmission of pathogenic and multi-drug resistant microbes to anyone who comes in contact.1,2

Hand and surface disinfection has long been accepted as key to preventing the spread of microbes in the healthcare environment. But cell phones have been traditionally overlooked for their role in the spread of microbes in hospitals.  Disinfection of cell phones has yet to take their place as a priorty next to hand washing and surface disinfection as key practices in protecting HCWs and patients from hospital-acquired infections (HAIs).

A Sea Change for Cell Phone Disinfection

One silver lining of the current COVID-19 pandemic is that it’s helping to raise awareness about cell phone disinfection. Increased awareness has resulted in Apple, Samsung, and Google releasing specific guidance for proper cell phone sanitization. Before the outbreak of SARS-CoV-2, Apple had advised against the use of cleaning supplies on their products.

The guidance comes at a great time, but it’s only one part of the equation. While there have been a lot of studies calling out the transmission potential of cell phones, there have been fewer studies on cell phone use practices amongst HCWs or evidence-based guidance for effective cleaning in the healthcare environment.

Filling the Knowledge Gap

There’s a saying that “you don’t know what you don’t know.” At PDI, we want to know — about how HCWs use cell phones in hospitals, the attitudes towards compliant disinfection procedures, and the current knowledge gaps. And by knowing, we aim to provide practical solutions.

To work towards this goal, we recently conducted a survey3 of 100 nurses involved in direct patient care in a variety of hospital settings, asking about their smartphone use. Here’s a look at some of the responses and the key stats that help us get a better understanding of the issue.

Where do Nurses Use Their Cell Phones?

  • 72% of nurses reported using their cell phones at nursing stations
  • 76% used them in public areas such as the cafeteria
  • 50% used them in bathrooms

How Frequently Do They Use Their Cell Phones?

  • 84% of nurses reported frequently touching their cell phone during shift without gloves on

What Practices do Nurses Use for Cell Phone Cleaning?

  • 41% of nurses reported cleaning their phones routinely throughout the day
  • 72% of respondents use a disposable alcohol-based wipe to sanitize their phones during hospital shifts

What Role Do Nurses Think Cell Phones Play in Pathogen Transmission?

  • Only 4% of respondents believe that cell phones play no role

How Much Compliance Training Did Nurses Receive Regarding Cell Phone Cleaning?

  • Only 3% of respondents received formal training on sanitizing their cell phones
  • Only 25% of respondents think there is a significant need for hospitals to have stricter policies and procedures to prevent contamination of these hand-held, high touch devices

Opportunities Abound

The above data highlight an opportunity. Nurses (and other HCWs, most likely) are already armed with knowledge about transmission risk and when they do clean their phones, they are using effective products, such as alcohol-based wipes. The next step is to build an infrastructure for training and support in compliant cell phone usage and disinfection. And that will take a village and additional studies. With the sophisticated tools already in play against SARS-CoV-2 and HAIs, there’s no doubt that, as a community, we’ll be able to implement evidence-based guidance that will lower the global risk of pathogen transmission.

  1. Ulger F, Dilek A, Esen S, et al. Are healthcare workers’ mobile phones a potential source of nosocomial infections? Review of the literature. J Infect Dev Countr. 2015;9(10):1046-1053.
  2. Pillet S, Berthelot P, Gagneux-Brunon A, et al. Contamination of healthcare workers’ mobile phones by epidemic viruses. Clin Microbiol Infect. 2016;22(5):456-e1-456.e6.
  3. Internal Study. Easy Screen Cell Phone Use, 03-02-2020


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