Nursing and Technology: Bring Your Own Device to Work

Not long ago, hospital IT departments supplied and maintained the hardware and software that nurses used to perform work-related tasks. Then came the mobile revolution, when consumers increasingly began carrying smartphones and tablets to assist them in their personal lives as well as in business. As a direct result, many clinicians (including nurses) today are following the trend known as BYOD – bring your own device.

In health care, physicians were the true leaders of the BYOD movement, due to their high levels of autonomy and their mobility between hospitals. Research now shows, however, that the BYOD movement has trickled down to hospital employees at every level. In a recent survey, 61 percent of hospitals and health systems responding said that half their employees use personal mobile devices for work. A large number of these (50 percent) said this use was limited to email and calendar applications, but 36 percent said that employees were accessing patient data. Another report, titled Point of Care Computing for Nursing 2012, specifically examined the BYOD patterns of nurses, finding that 69 percent of hospitals say their nursing staff is using personal devices at work.

The pros and cons of BYOD in nursing

In general, BYOD can increase productivity or job performance because people are more comfortable with their own device, have more control over the computing environment, and enjoy an enhanced sense of work-life balance, to name a few benefits. The nurses surveyed in the report referenced above specifically stated they use their own mobile devices to improve patient safety and reduce the risk of medical errors. They believe their personal devices enable them to fill in critical communication gaps with the technologies provided by the hospital – for example, allowing them to easily access clinical reference materials at the point of care or quickly communicate with other clinicians to coordinate care.

Yet, BYOD can put IT departments in the difficult position of having to provide support for all these personal devices. For example, IT might have to build a platform that will ensure hospital software works on all four mobile operating systems (Apple, Android, Microsoft Windows, and Blackberry). These diverse devices also create security and HIPAA issues associated with mobile technology. Nurses should realize that IT policies exist for a reason, to protect data integrity and security, and should adhere to them at all times when participating in a BYOD initiative.

Using BYOD to improve nursing workflows

A recent blog post suggested that integrating BYOD with nursing call systems can improve both staff and patient satisfaction. Call systems based on overhead paging or lights that can only be seen from the nursing station may soon become obsolete, in favor of newer systems that can wirelessly transmit alerts right to a nurse’s smartphone when the patient pushes a button. Alerts can take the form of text messages, emails, pages, or phone calls. In some cases, patients may be able to send a specific type of alert – a request for bathroom assistance or pain medicine, for example – that are then routed to the appropriate staff person.

It’s clear that BYOD initiatives should be expanded to include nurses as well as physicians, in order to increase efficiency and improve patient care and patient satisfaction.

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