Physicians, nurses use smartphones to communicate patient data: 5 study findings

Up to two-thirds of U.K. physicians and nurses admit to using text and picture messages on their smartphones to communicate patient information — including test results and case details — with other physicians, according to a new survey.

"The unparalleled ubiquity, portability and connectivity of mobile communication devices help healthcare professionals to access health-related content at almost any time and place," the authors wrote. "Despite the enthusiasm for digital health, there are pitfalls, and several studies have demonstrated the potential for certain apps to cause patient harm. Furthermore, the use of mobile devices in the clinical arena poses specific security and privacy challenges that must be addressed in order to mitigate the risks of inadvertently breaching highly sensitive and confidential patient-identifiable data."

Here are five findings from the study, published in BMJ Innovations, which surveyed more than 2,100 physicians and more than 4,000 nurses.

• 92.6 percent of physicians and 53.2 percent of nurses found their devices to be "very useful" or "useful" in helping them perform their clinical duties.
• 89.6 percent of physicians and 67.1 percent of nurses who owned medical apps said they used them as part of their clinical practices.
• 64.7 percent of physicians and 13.8 percent of nurses used SMS messaging to send patient-related clinical information to colleagues.
• 33.1 percent of physicians and 5.7 percent of nurses used picture messaging to exchange clinical information with colleagues.
• 71.6 percent of physicians and 37.2 percent of nurses said they want a secure means of sending this type of information.

Compared with earlier studies, this survey demonstrates much higher smartphone ownership and clinical use among physicians and nurses, the authors wrote. For this reason, they conclude that healthcare organizations must develop strategies and police to support the safe and secure use of mobile device technology in the care setting.

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