High-touch surfaces throughout healthcare environments are widely recognized as potential sources of infectious agents. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported that “surfaces frequently touched by hand potentially could contribute to secondary transmission of [infection-causing] bacteria].”
While any high-touch surface can harbor infection hazards, many studies show that computer keyboards on carts and wall mounts pose a particularly worrisome hazard and are often overlooked. Even though the widespread use of computers throughout the healthcare continuum of care provides many efficiencies—consulting with patients, in the laboratory, pharmacy, and operating rooms—it also brings the risk of transmitting bacteria.
Healthcare workers’ hands often come into contact with blood, secretions, and many other substances in the course of a workday. These substances can be easily spread to the computer keyboard as clinicians input information, review doctor’s orders and navigate application screens. Moreover, keyboards are notoriously hard to clean because bacteria can become lodged beneath and between keys, and in areas that are hard to reach and disinfect.
One recent study at the University of North Carolina Health Care System found that computer keyboards were infected with at least two types of bacteria—and every keyboard tested positive for coagulase-negative staphylococci (CoNS) as well as 13 other types of bacteria. The study concluded with recommendations that keyboards should be disinfected daily or “when visibly soiled or if they become contaminated with blood.”
The National Center for Health Research (NCHR) recommends that hospital keyboards be disinfected at least once per day and suggests that staff wash their hands before and after using shared computers. Some manufacturers recommend washing keyboards in a dishwasher, a virtually impossible—and impractical—direction. And busy staff simply don’t have the time to disconnect their keyboards and take them away from their workstations for cleaning.
A BETTER SOLUTION
Now, companies like Key Source International (KSI) have developed hospital-grade, disinfectable keyboards for healthcare facilities that are turning what were once vessels for germ and bacteria growth into life-protecting healthcare tools.
The healthcare-grade keyboards feature intelligent cleaning systems with a dedicated LinkSmart® “cleaning button” that disengages keyboard keys so that users can disinfect the keyboard with approved germicidal wipes without risking input of errant data. This feature enables staff to clean in place or disinfect the keyboard without disconnecting it from the workstation. Using the smart cleaning technology with approved germicidal wipes has been shown to eliminate up to 98% of harmful bacteria and cross-contamination.
EMBEDDED RFID TECHNOLOGY
KSI keyboards feature embedded RFIDeas™ Wave ID® pcProx card readers that eliminate yet another touch point for users thereby reducing the opportunity to spread germs and bacteria. Staff members simply wave their ID badges above the keyboard to send authentication data to third-party single sign-on software. The software identifies and verifies the user, confirms access authorization and unlocks the workstation.
RF IDeas’ card readers eliminate the need for staff to remember and manually type passwords multiple times throughout the day. And, because the system is compatibility with all the healthcare single sign-on providers, hands-free authentication can be achieved with mobile devices, too.
After each keyboard is cleaned, KSI’s award-winning San-a-Key® software collects all relevant data, including the staff member who logged in and the workstation. The software can also assist with scheduling regular cleaning by sending reminders to disinfect and documents compliance so that corrective actions can be taken if required.
Most importantly, with RFID capabilities in place, more healthcare organizations can effectively establish protocols for keyboard disinfection and monitor staff compliance with those protocols keeping staff and patients safer.
 CDC (2008). Guideline for Disinfection and Sterilization in Healthcare Facilities, 2008.
 Rutala, W., White, M., Gergen, M., & Weber, D. (2006). Bacterial Contamination of Keyboards: Efficacy and Functional Impact of Disinfectants. Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology, 27(4), 372-377. doi:10.1086/503340