- Healthcare organizations still struggle with Wi-Fi and cellular coverage for mobile devices, according to a new survey from communication services provider Spok.
- Nurses have seen the biggest increase over time in smartphone usage, with 79% reporting they were allowed to use the devices this year versus 53% in 2011, the report found.
- Smartphones and pagers were the devices most often allowed, with three-quarters of organizations allowing their use. Wi-Fi phones were next at 64%, followed by tablets (55%), voice badges (19%) and smartwatches (10%).
Health organizations have unique challenges when it comes to device usage, as patient data must be kept private and secure while communication among employees and with patients is essential. Cash-strapped smaller hospitals in particular can struggle with maintaining the proper communications infrastructure.
One potential solution for the industry is 5G networks. In January, Rush University Medical Center became the first hospital to roll out the technology, using AT&T. Experts say 5G could be up to 10 times faster than today's 4G LTE networks, but so far most hospitals have taken a wait and see approach.
But Rush CIO Shafiq Rob told Healthcare Dive earlier this year smaller facilities could see major return on investment with 5G. "A big hospital — all the fiber comes to it. But for a rinky-dink hospital or clinic, I can't spend millions of dollars running lines, but we have to support the phones and computers. What 5G will do is become the primary way they get coverage," he said.
Regardless, security is a major concern. A March report from Verizon found that a quarter of healthcare organizations reported a mobile-related data compromise in the past year.
This latest survey found mobile devices are most often used for communication at healthcare organizations, but 19% of respondents said they used them for clinical initiatives and 10% for quality and safety initiatives.
Nearly 80% of respondents said communicating with care team members was an essential use for their devices.
Also flagged as important uses were receiving actionable information like nurse call alerts, delivering real-time clinical information, sending and receiving protected health information and sharing information from an EHR. Least essential was providing real-time web-based education for clinical staff.
The online survey gathered responses from 460 healthcare professionals, including physicians, nurses, pharmacists, IT staff and executives.