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 nurses today are following the trend known as BYOD – bring your own device.
“RNs have greater familiarity with their own devices and the more familiar they are, the greater the tendency there is for nurses to optimize the use of the device to its fullest capacity for improved patient care,” says Judith Church, DHA, MSN, faculty member in the health care and health care informatics programs at American Sentinel University.
A recent survey by Fierce Mobile Healthcare found that 61 percent of hospitals and health systems responding said that half their employees use personal mobile devices for work. Fifty percent said this use was limited to email and calendar applications, but 36 percent said that employees were accessing patient data.
Another report, Point of Care Computing for Nursing 2012, examined the BYOD patterns of nurses and found that 69 percent of hospitals say their nursing staff is using personal devices at work.
The Pros and Cons of BYOD in Nursing
Church says that 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 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.
“The drawback to BYOD in nursing is that it contributes to a non-standardization of a work arena’s equipment,” says Church. “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
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.
“BYOD can play a significant role in nursing to improve workflows,” says Church. “The individual device and user prowess will contribute to optimal standardization of devices across the physical and electronic work environment.”
Church points out that BYOD is a trend that will continue in health care because of its financial implications.
“The BYOD trend will thrive in nursing because health care organizations save money when the employee purchases the device. Since nurses are most familiar with their own devices, they will work more effectively and efficiently. Equipment – no matter what it is – is only as effective as its setup and use,” adds Church.
It’s clear that health care must find ways to reap the benefits of mobile technologies, while reducing the risks and protecting patient data.
“BYOD initiatives should be expanded to include nurses as well as physicians in order to increase nurse productivity and improve patient care and satisfaction,” adds Church.
For more information about American Sentinel University’s MSN, nursing informatics specialization, please visit http://www.americansentinel.edu/health-care/m-s-nursing/m-s-nursing-nursing-informatics.
American Sentinel University