BlackBerry Considers Bacteria-Free Device for Hospitals

BlackBerry Ltd. may design a bacteria-free smartphone as it bids to become the secure mobile choice for the health-care industry, Chief Executive Officer John Chen said.

“Health-care workers have to be worried about one less thing to wipe down” with a bacteria-free handset, Chen told reporters Wednesday at a hospital north of Toronto where BlackBerry unveiled a clinical alerts pilot project. Chen said BlackBerry is not developing the clean phone yet.

The Canadian mobile manufacturer is partnering with ThoughtWire and Cisco Systems Inc. to provide nurses and doctors in a Mackenzie Richmond Hill Hospital unit with a portable messaging and alert system. BlackBerry will be providing the software and devices. It wouldn’t disclose how much it’s spending on the project.

Transfer of infections and bacteria between patients in hospitals is a “huge issue,” said Dr. Aviv Gladman, chief medical information officer at Mackenzie Health. Medical equipment in patient rooms, including mobile phones, can carry bacteria through the hospital, he said.

Gladman said medical professionals are supposed to wipe their phone with alcohol before entering and exiting a patient’s room. A study published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology found that about 20 percent to 30 percent of germs transfer between a phone and a fingertip.

Hospitals don’t know how effective alcohol wipes are at removing bacteria from phones and medical professionals don’t always wipe, he said. Gladman said hospital-acquired infections are one of the top reasons patients die in hospital.

BlackBerry, based in Waterloo, Ontario, has switched its focus to high-security software as it has struggled to compete with Apple Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. as a device manufacturer.

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