Hy-tech bugs

April 1, 2004
Is that work area getting a little dingy? Maybe it's time to clean it!

by Victoria DaCosta

Is that work area getting a little dingy? Maybe it's time to clean it!

Now that our hygiene operatories are beginning to fill up with high-tech gadgets, how do we keep them sterile? This poses a problem; I have not read too many articles about this topic. As I was "breaking down" my operatory one day, I noticed that I tended to "skip" the monitor, keyboard, and mouse. The mouse! It's the most touched object on my counter! Both the mouse and keyboard are the most heavily used parts of the computer, which means they get the dirtiest!

How could I overlook this? I admit that I have worked with covers on the mouse and keyboard. But pretty soon you grow tired of "another breakdown object" to cover and recover.

Yes, I have fudged by cutting corners, rationalizing, "Well, it doesn't really go inside a patient's mouth, so if I take off my glove and use my bare hand on the keyboard or mouse, it is not getting contaminated."

Am I right? Am I alone on this issue? You could call this "hy-tech bug denial!" Where is the guidance on this topic. I am positive there is literature to be found among the OSHA experts. But, for the sake of my ignorance, I assumed the task of practical research, and this is what I have found out (and hope to shed light on).

Product features

I discovered that the OSHA concerns have already been addressed in hospitals and inside emergency vehicles around the country. We can benefit from their product selections.

When shopping for keyboard and mouse products, look for features such as:

• Soft to the touch, yet strong and durable
• Fits every contour of your keyboard
• Thin covering, so that it is easy to feel the keyboard and/or mouse
• Promotes office hygiene, and is fungus resistant, as well as safe for contact with water

Product solutions

The products are available on the market, and they can be easily found on the Internet. It is most important to narrow your needs down and go from there. Choose products that fit into your workflow of room breakdown, because your time is limited in between patients.

Products to select from include:

• Key skins and/or dust cover — Keyboard skins actually protect while you type, providing continuous protection around the clock in thousands of law enforcement vehicles, fire trucks, 911 centers, hospitals, and wherever computers and data input devices are used.

Some keyboard skins are made from a very flexible, durable polyurethane material. The matte finish leaves the keyboard markings clearly visible while reducing glare.

Thousands of different keyboard skins are available for standard computer keyboards and most laptops.

• Anti-static sprays — Protects equipment, workstations, and the surrounding work area from static buildup and the possibility of data loss and equipment failure. This is a safe and non-flammable spray, which is non-toxic and long lasting. Simply spray troublesome areas. It will dry quickly without staining and leave a transparent shield that guards against static buildup.

• Anti-static wipes — Alcohol-free, lint-free, and scratch-free disposable wipes quickly and conveniently eliminate the dust particles from your monitor or laptop that may cause static buildup. One daily wipe safeguards your data and keeps your screen and equipment dust-free and protected!

• Compressed air — Sneeze a lot while at the computer? Do not let dust overload on your keyboard and around your workspace. With compressed air in a can, you can simply blow away annoying dust and particles. Each can comes with a long nozzle to aim in niche areas.

• Screen wipes — Having some trouble seeing what is on your computer screen? There is a solution — clean it! With handy screen wipes you can remove dirt, smudges, and grease from all your glass surfaces. They help improve viewing and make your computer look cleaner!

• Absorbent wipes — If stains are building up in your workspace, then use the absorbent wipes to help you tackle this tech bug problem. With the absorbent wipes, you can clean the surface area where you touch, especially when that accidental "gloved hand" touches the keyboard and/or mouse.

A few office supply companies have keyboard covers. These are "contoured" to fit certain keyboards. If a dental office chooses a certain brand of computer or keyboard, they can check with the manufacturer (via Internet) to see if there is a "skin" that fits that keyboard. The three major vendors of these keyboards are Microsoft, Logitech, and Keytronic (a distant third).

Enter Microsoft or Logitech keyboard cover in a Web search engine, and check out some of the results. Here are a few links I discovered:

• http://www.compucover.com
• http://www.policecomputersupplies.com
• http://www.fellowes.com

You also may wish to check with your local dental supply company.

Hy-Tech user tips ...
for maintenance

• In a conversation with a dental software rep, I was advised: "The contoured key skins are a pain-in-the-neck to clean, since you have to wipe down in each groove and depression. That is why we sort of recommend the ordinary, thin-film kitchen wrap. These can simply be wiped a few times and changed when necessary (or changed for every patient). You could even place the clear wrap in front of flat panel monitors. But since they are relatively sealed, you can just wipe them off with no harm. Obviously, you need to use a soft cloth, and go gently, since LCD monitor screens are a little bit fragile."
• The wireless/optical mouse can simply be wiped clean without harm.
• Using a wireless keyboard and optical mouse eliminates dirt collection issues. Using a connected cable mouse to the keyboard is a problem due to the tracking ball collection of dirt and dust.
• In a complete scrub down, the small computer box, which sits over a wall-mounted bracket, can be wiped down as long as the cleaning cloth is not too wet and you are careful around the drives and rear panel.
• Overall, have your doctor spend a little time and money now so you can avoid spending a lot of it later on repairs and down time!

Victoria DaCosta, RDH, BS, is founder and president of Hy-Tech Solutions. A practicing dental hygienist for 17 years, DaCosta is a speaker, author, consultant, and an expert in the design of medical/dental software. She is also on the new technologies committee for the California Dental Hygienists' Association. DaCosta can be contacted at [email protected].