Mobile devices are becoming powerful and increasingly common professional tools for nurses and other healthcare providers. With the explosive growth in medical apps over the past few years, savvy nurses are tapping into their ability to assist with and enhance a range of professional tasks, including
In a recent survey conducted by Wolters Kluwer, nearly two-thirds of nurses said they use a mobile device for professional purposes on the job. Among them, 65% do so for at least a half-hour every day. Another 20% use a mobile device for 2 hours or more daily. Mobile technology users included 77% of nurse managers and 58% of staff nurses.
"These findings largely mirror what we are seeing outside the hospital,” said Judith McCann, Chief Nurse, Lippincott Solutions, Wolters Kluwer, “that use of mobile devices to access online information, the Internet and social sites are becoming part of the social fabric both personally and professionally."
In another recent poll of healthcare providers, nurse practitioners were on the heels of physician assistants as the top users of mobile technology (hospital pharmacists placed third). Overall, some 69% of healthcare providers in a survey a year ago said their hospitals equipped them with smartphones and 43%, with tablets.
Apps that support healthcare professionals at the point of care lead to better decisions and patient outcomes, according to a May 2014 report in the journal Pharmacy and Therapeutics. The study went on to link medical apps with fewer adverse events, shorter hospital stays, increased efficiency and heightened productivity.
Drug reference apps are the most popular app type among healthcare professionals, according to a Modern Healthcare survey. Since its launch less than 2 years ago, more than a half-million users have downloaded the Nursing Drug Handbook App by Wolters Kluwer. The point-of-care app stays current through weekly updates to its comprehensive collection of generic and brand name medications.
General medical reference, disease diagnosis and medical calculator apps are also widely used point-of-care tools. On a wider scope, email apps, social networking apps and personal health apps such as Fitbit are popular among healthcare providers, too.
Nurses who use mobile devices at work should select their apps with a critical eye. Point-of-care options should be evidence-based and offer frequent updates to provide the latest information continuously. Choose apps with a reputation for quality information and from sources you trust. Beware of apps with low user ratings and questionable content. Like websites, not all apps are created equal.
Nurses should also be cautious with what they share through social media apps. One eager student nurse was expelled from her nursing program for violating HIPAA rules after she proudly posted a picture of a 3-year-old she had been caring for. Information from the post made its way to the employees at the hospital, who were concerned about patient privacy and security and contacted her supervisor.
“While social media can be extremely valuable to nurses and other healthcare providers, inappropriate use of these tools can be devastating to a nurse’s career,” warned regulatory experts in the Online Journal of Issues in Nursing.
When using mobile devices and social media, always keep in mind that patient confidentiality and HIPAA rules apply. Many hospitals have policies guiding mobile technology use among employees. To protect yourself and your patients, make sure to follow proper protocol.
One thing is clear: With all it offers nurses and other healthcare providers, hospitals and patients, mobile technology is here to stay. In the coming years, apps are expected to evolve even further and link patients and their healthcare providers beyond the practice setting for better care and management of chronic conditions.
“Medical devices and apps are already invaluable tools for healthcare professionals,” observed one researcher, “and as their features and uses expand, they are expected to become even more widely incorporated into nearly every aspect of clinical practice.”
Does your facility allow clinicians to use mobile devices and tablets to access patient and reference information? What effect does this have on patient care?