Many UK doctors, nurses use unsecured personal smartphones for work

A good number of nurses and doctors working in the United Kingdom are using personal smartphones for clinical duties, with more than half using medical apps to share patient, according to new research.

A multicenter, cross-sectional study examined smartphone ownership and use at five hospital sites in a large London-based NHS Trust organization. About 280 doctors and 564 nurses completed the survey on mHealth device use.

"Compared to earlier studies, we have demonstrated much higher smartphone ownership among doctors and nurses, who perceive these devices to be useful when performing their clinical duties," the study authors say.

The research also highlights a critical factor--both doctors and nurses using their devices would like to have a secured process for data sharing, and a large number are sending information in an unsecured fashion.

"Healthcare organizations must develop strategies and policies to support the safe and secure use of these technologies by front-line staff," states the research.

The study reflects the increasing adoption of mHealth devices by care providers. However, currently there are no measures or federal regulations in place in the U.S. that address the use of phones in a healthcare setting, according to an article in The Atlantic.

Security has long been cited as an obstacle for mHealth, and while physicians should embrace devices there must be data and privacy standards and regulations, noted John Smithwick, CEO of Nashville, Tennessee-based patient engagement and care-coordination platform company RoundingWell.

The NHS Trust study notes that in the U.K., many healthcare groups, including the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, have developed guidelines for physicians, and states that "the use of mobile devices in the clinical arena poses specific security and privacy challenges that must be addressed in order to mitigate the risks of inadvertently breaching highly sensitive and confidential patient-identifiable data."

For more information:
- read the study (.pdf)