Nursing Communication Tools: 5 Benefits of Smartphones
Should nurses be using smartphones at work as nurse communication tools?
It’s a question every healthcare facility is going to have to answer. Consider the widespread use of smartphones today:
- 95 percent of Americans own a cellphone of some kind, and 77 percent own a smartphone.
- 90 percent of employees use smartphones for work.
- 60 percent of employees use mobile apps for work-related activity.
In other words, the trend lines for smartphone usage have already been drawn. For the healthcare organizations planning to deploy a mobile communication platform that supports smartphones (63 percent in 2016, and still growing), a better question might be:
How can nurses make the best use of smartphones at work as nurse communication tools?
Five benefits of using smartphones for nurse communication
Studies of the advantages of smartphones for nurses are burgeoning, and the results are positive. The following benefits are just five of the ways in which using smartphones can support nurses’ productivity, effectiveness and job satisfaction.
1. Enhancing coordination among care providers
Smartphones enable two-way communication, providing instant support, feedback and team-building. Traditional methods of hospital communication such as PA announcements, personal pagers and alarms get a person’s attention, but they don’t allow a response.
Even a simple response of “I’m on my way” from a physician, security officer or housekeeping staff helps nurses focus on performing their unique roles as part of larger healthcare team.
2. Enabling communication at the point of care
Two-way communication provides nurses the opportunity to remain with a patient rather than tracking down a staff member who isn’t responding. Although many hospitals have adopted Computers on Wheels (COWs) to provide mobile workstations, nurses cannot realistically pull a COW behind them on every patient call, and a COW is more appropriate for record keeping than real-time communication.
A smartphone allows communication that motivates immediate action and response.
3. Improving time management
Simply removing the need to run around to coordinate with other care team members saves time: one study found that a group of nurses were able to save more than 2.5 hours during a 12-hour shift by changing from pagers to smartphones.
Time savings that are harder to measure—but no less real—come from preventing time-consuming issues that arise from a too-slow response. While there’s no way to count the number of adverse events that don’t happen, every nurse knows that patient falls and similar accidents create major disruptions.
4. Mitigating nursing burnout
Numbers 1, 2 and 3 on this list illustrate how smartphones can reduce stress to prevent nurse burnout. Using a smartphone to foster teamwork and support, reduce physical fatigue, and forestall adverse events helps to curtail stress in the workplace.
Just as important, returning more time to nurses allows them to provide a higher level of patient care, which leads to higher job satisfaction for nurses—and may lead to higher patient satisfaction.
5. Integrating communication streams and devices
Nurses are often communicating with—and carrying around—more devices than can be reasonably managed by one person. A nurse might be juggling a Blackberry, a pager, a Spectralink device, and a smartphone all at once, leading to a pocketful of buzzes, pings, and alarms that create confusion rather than accelerating response times. Gathering all of these functions on a single device streamlines communication and cuts the clutter.
If nurses are using a smartphone communication app linked to a larger clinical communication and collaboration platform, the hospital also sees the benefit, as communications via the app are tracked and logged. Documentation of hospital communications, including message receipt, response rate and TAT, and content can enhance accountability and even inform operational analytics.
Implementing smartphones as part of a hospital communication system
As more and more healthcare facilities adopt smartphones as a work-based communication tool, challenges will arise. Like many technologies, smartphones can become a distraction if rules for usage aren’t clear. Privacy and the potential for infection in vulnerable patients are also important issues to consider. Often these concerns boil down to a decision about who should own and control the device and the applications it uses.
Healthcare experts are divided on the issue of device ownership. Some say the security and health risks of a BYOD policy are too great, and that only hospital-issued devices running company-approved apps offer adequate safeguards.
On the other hand, proponents note that BYOD has increased efficiency and cut costs for facilities that have adopted it, with a possible boost in proficiency because users don’t have to learn new technology.
For the foreseeable future, the best choice for device ownership will depend on the facility. Fortunately, the benefits of smartphone usage for nurses are achievable with either personal or hospital-owned devices.
Read more blog posts in this series on building nursing resilience and reducing nurse burnout:
- Nurses Are Already Resilient: What Hospitals Can Do to Help
- Nursing Resilience and Workplace Safety: Addressing Root Problems in Healthcare
- More FTEs May Not Solve Your Staffing Stress, but Better Communication Could
- 5 Ways Healthcare Communication Technology Fosters Staff Connections
Learn about a platform that allows nurses to use smartphones and other mobile devices to communicate and coordinate care in real time.
Visit our Healthcare Team Communication Resource Center for more articles and case studies.
Read how healthcare team communication tools can reduce nurse burnout in this blog post.