Monday, July 13, 2009

Yuck! Doctors' Cell Phones Are Gross!

I was recently at Montefiore Hospital with a patient and noticed a sign on the spotless waiting room wall: "Have we washed our hands? It's ok to remind us!" I though how mortified I would feel if a patient had to remind me to wash my hands before doing a physical exam. And now there is something new to remind your physician about in order to keep you healthy.

A recent study published in the Annals of Clinical Microbiology and Antimicrobials was conducted in Turkey. Two hundred health care workers had their hands and their mobile phones swabbed and cultured. Fully 95% of the phones were contaminated with bacteria. We would not expect them to be sterile. However, over half of the phones were contaminated with Staphylococcus aureus, of the variety called MRSA that has acheived notoriety recently because of its resistance to more common antibiotics.

So imagine if your doctor has greeted you, washed her hands, begun to chat with you then interrupts to answer her cell phone. What usually happens is that she would then snap the phone shut, apologize (you hope) and resume her conversation or exam with you. OOPS, bacteria have now been transferred to you from the phone. Can you be courageous enough to remind her to wash again? Can she be gracious enough to accept your observation, new-found knowledge and chutzpah?

I suggest you try if the situation ever arises. It would be a true litmus test of a doctor's compassion, conscientiousness, and ability to learn. And maybe this message should go VIRAL!

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