Infection control sidelined in rush to mobile?

Sara Jackson has posted some feedback on my post highlighting cross infection issues that could arise from the reuse of a low cost plastic accessory as a dental tool that could enable a conventional video mobile to be used to capture a high quality oral cavity scan.

Real-life virus control has gotten short-shrift in the past year, as apps, plug-ins and other smartphone devices have proliferated, he says

Actually this is something I’ve been noticing happening for a few years now eg. SANA Mobile – a Vodafone US Foundation 2009 award winner – showcased a similar lack of appreciation of these issues.

In particular, he slams the Stanford University’s new OScan, a dental imaging plug-in for iPhones (profiled in this week’s newsletter) as a hygiene accident waiting to happen

Rather than thinking it’s waiting to happen I’m suggesting it may have already happened. The Stanford School of Medicine press release clearly states: “built a prototype scanner and took it to India for field testing” and the image on the project homepage shows it being placed on/in the mouth of a patient in a busy testing environment. I’m in no doubt that if you tried that here in Ireland you’d find yourself up in front of a fitness to practise committee as a result of your failure to take appropriate precautions to protect patients from the risk of cross-infection.

Of course there could be a very innocent miscommunication. But in my opinion sterility should be a critical feature of a dental tool and as there’s no mention of the issue(s) on their project website I find even if there is a misprint this recognition will be setting a very poor example to other innovators (Stanford ranks 4th for research amongst US Med Schools).

The problem is having a multi-use device that’s placed in multiple patients’ mouths, particularly when it’s being done in developing nations like India, where Stanford will be doing its primary device testing

I’m not sure if it makes much difference where you use a multi-use dental tool. Fortunately in a market like the USA patients are protected because there are powerful regulatory bodies that can act to maintain patient safety.

The solution seems to be an old-school one, however–be sure clinicians wash their hands. A study in the July 2011 American Journal of Infection Control noted that it was visitor and patient-owned devices that were the most contaminated, not physician- or nurse-owned phones. The conclusion was that clinicians were more likely to wash their hands, and thus not transfer germs to their phones in the first place

I think Sara has mistaken my concern. I don’t think the phone is going to be the primary source of infection but the low cost piece of plastic that’s pressed into the different patients mouths.

Contaminated dental tools are a recognised source of infections such as Hepatitis B Virus (cause of 60-80% of primary liver cancer worldwide). You can read more about Hepatitis B Virus uon Stanford School of Medicine’s website.

Another small study conducted in Thailand last year also found a relatively simple solution–alcohol-based wipes that appeared to do a solid job of controlling contamination

Not sure about this study but I would imagine it’s referring to hand sanitizers and would be very surprised if it was referring to dental tool cleaning.

About David Doherty
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6 Responses to Infection control sidelined in rush to mobile?

  1. Donna Cusano says:

    David–this and your earlier article are commented on over at Telecare Aware

  2. You’re not suggesting we open up North Brother Island for Stanford students are you? 😉

  3. Pingback: PwC Report “Emerging mHealth: Paths for Growth” « mHealth Insight: the blog of 3G Doctor

  4. Pingback: Award-winning smartphone screener for oral lesions an infection risk?

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