Smartphones Gain Traction as a Health IT Solution, Despite Concerns

Mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets are increasingly used by nurses in hospital settings, despite security and privacy concerns.

Just over one-half (51 percent) of hospitals are evaluating enterprise-class nursing smartphone solutions to support collaborative team-based care over the next 12 to 18 months, according to a Spyglass Consulting Group health care study, "Point of Care Communications for Nursing 2014."

Despite hospital policy restrictions, 67 percent of hospitals interviewed report that staff nurses are using personal smartphones to support clinical communications and workflow.

The report suggested next-generation solutions based upon the smartphone provide hospital IT with a vendor-neutral and scalable architecture to address current and future application requirements that are tightly integrated with the hospital's PBX, clinical information, systems, biomedical devices, and nurse call system.

"Despite advancements in mobile devices and unified communications, hospital IT has underinvested in technologies and processes to support nurses at point of care," Gregg Malkary, managing director of Spyglass Consulting, said in a statement. "Nearly 42 percent of hospitals interviewed are still reliant on pagers, noisy overhead paging systems and landline phones for communications and care coordination."

The report also indicated hospital IT is concerned smartphone usage poses a security risk, with 88 percent of hospitals interviewed expressing concerns about the recent HIPAA Omnibus Ruling and the risk of unprotected mobile devices on the hospital's network, which could introduce malicious attacks, malware and viruses.

The study is targeted at software and hardware vendors, systems integrators and management consulting groups who are selling hardware, applications and services into the health care industry, as well as health care administrators and IT executives who are making strategic decisions to fund clinical information technology solutions.

The providers interviewed were technically competent and representative of a broad range of medical specialties, organization types and organization sizes, according to a synopsis of the report.

The telephone interviews were conducted over a three-month period starting in October 2013.

The purpose of the interviews was to identify the needs and requirements for communications at point of care through discussions about existing workflow inefficiencies in communicating with care team members, current usage models for mobile communications devices and solutions, and barriers for widespread mobile communications adoption.

"Passage of the Affordable Care Act is forcing hospitals to face the harsh realities of stringent readmissions penalties, new patient centered care models and new financial incentives focused on patient safety and outcomes," the report brief noted. "Hospital IT has an imperative to evaluate and deploy innovative mobile technologies and unified communications solutions to support collaborative, team-based care to help enhance communications, streamline clinician productivity, improve care quality and increase clinician satisfaction."