Nursing staffs tap mobile devices, Internet resources for workplace needs

Nurses increasingly rely on mobile devices and the Internet for work needs, with 65 percent using a device at work and 95 percent of healthcare organizations supporting online devices for clinical consulting and accessing information, according to a new survey.

The report from Wolters Kluwer Health reveals nurses use devices for at least 30 minutes a day, with 20 percent using them for two hours or more. Of those polled, 83 percent believe their employer's policy allows care staff to access public sites, including social media, to access general health insight.

"These findings largely mirror what we are seeing outside the hospital, 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," said Judith McCann, chief nurse, Lippincott Solutions, Wolters Kluwer Health, Professional & Education, in an announcement. "Although these findings may not reflect the actual policies of these institutions, what's interesting are the perceptions of the nurses who work there, and what we learned is that nurses are frequently incorporating the use of mobile devices, online resources and, to some extent, social media into their daily workflow."

The growing reliance may tie into the fact that nurses increasingly take on new leadership roles in health IT and have a major impact on healthcare innovation and delivery, as reported by FierceHealthIT. The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society's 2014 Nursing Informatics Workforce Survey reports more than 70 percent of respondents hold a title that specifies informatics, and interest in additional training within health IT is also on the rise.

The Wolters Kluwer Health survey notes 73 percent say employer policies strictly prohibit direct patient care staff to have social interaction with patients via social media sites. But that doesn't mean social sites are not tapped for work-related needs as 60 percent report using social media to follow healthcare issues at work, and 86 percent follow social media outside of work. Yet an overwhelming majority, 96 percent, never use Twitter or Pinterest and 80 percent never use Facebook or LinkedIn for work needs.

The reasons for avoiding mainstream social networking sites are likely multifold, according to the announcement. One is ensuring that data accessed via those sites is verified and accurate.

"It is important that nurses are not using their mobile devices to get just any questionable answer that they find." said McCann. "It has to be the 'right' answer, so it's paramount that they are turning to evidence-based clinical information that has been vetted and is consistently updated."

Another reason is the potential risk of revealing sensitive data, which in at least one reported instance, led to a nurse's firing. The nurse posted an Instagram photo of an empty trauma room following the treatment of a man hit by a subway. The nurse claimed she was fired for insensitivity and not violating the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. She told ABC News she reposted the photo from a doctor who also worked at the hospital.

Data security is another potential reason for strict policies on device use in the healthcare setting. A recent Forrester research report notes just slightly more than half of healthcare employees (59 percent) use full-disk encryption or file-level encryption on mHealth devices used at work. In addition the advent of bring-you-own-device (BYOD) to work in the healthcare segment spurs hospital and medical facilities to shore up device, data and systems security, says a healthcare software development expert, noting greater mobile device use increases risk every day.

"As hospitals become more dependent on medical devices and install healthcare BYOD policies to help remotely capture and transmit health data, increased risk will be the reality," writes Reda Chouffani, VP of development at Biz Technology Solutions, in a SearchHealthIT column.

For more information:
- read the study summary
- read the announcement

Related Links:
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Weak mobile device security bodes big risk for hospitals
BYOD trend in healthcare requires providers to shore up security
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