With almost all doctors now owing a smartphone and their technological capabilities ever increasing, it is inevitable that clinicians will use their personal devices to assist them in aspects of their professional life. We have previously advised on some pitfalls of using smartphones for clinical messaging or sharing images of patients and we will revisit the key points relating to these issues as well as considering some other potential problems.

Phone etiquette

When it comes to professionalism and the use of mobile phones there are aspects to consider that relate to most professions. For example not having an offensive ringtone; not taking non-urgent private calls when dealing with clients/patients; turning off the ringer ahead of meetings; and not allowing excessive use of the phone, for non-work related purposes, during work time to negatively impact your productivity or focus.

An infection control risk

The importance of hand hygiene is well established in clinical environments. Various studies have been done to investigate what bacteria are found on healthcare workers’ mobile phones and the infection risk these could pose to the health of the owner, patients and colleagues. This concern has become particularly acute during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Not only have environmental and commensal organisms been found on hospital staff’s mobile phones but also potential pathogens such as MRSA, E. coli and epidemic viruses.

The way mobile phones are used means they are ubiquitous in our society, and therefore we need to be aware of their impact on infection control.