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JCOM Abstract

J Clin Outcomes Manage 
2006 Apr;13(4):223-226
Prevalence of bacterial pathogens on physician handheld computers
Smith SJ, Knouse M, Wasser T

Abstract Objective: To determine the prevalence and nature of potential bacterial pathogens isolated on physician handheld or “notebook” computers and to evaluate a disinfection protocol. Design: Descriptive study and before-and-after study. Participants: Residents and attending physicians using notebook computers in the medical, surgical, and family practice programs of a university-affiliated tertiary care community hospital. Methods: A sample of notebook computers were swabbed and cultured. The same procedure was used on hallway computers for comparison. Main outcome was presence of significant human pathogens. Following this, a computer cleaning protocol was implemented, and we compared colonization rates for medical resident computers before and after the cleaning protocol was introduced. Results: Bacterial colonization rate of notebook computers was 43%, but significant pathogens were found in only 1.7% of cultures. Statistical power was not adequate to demonstrate differences between level of training or specialty with regards to frequency of positive cultures. There was no reduction in bacterial colonization with disinfection, and observed compliance with the disinfection protocol was poor. Conclusion: Overall, notebook computers were not significant reservoirs of potential nosocomial infection. Due to overall low colonization rates, disinfection was not shown to be effective in preventing contamination. Desktop computers had much higher colonization rates than the handheld devices. The effect of disinfection on colonization and patient outcomes needs to be further evaluated.

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