A study in 2107 found that 98.9% of doctors and 95.1% of nurses in the UK own a smartphone and that 92.6% of doctors and 53.2% of nurses find them ‘very useful’ or ‘useful’ in helping them to perform their day-to-day clinical duties.
Why is smartphone use so widespread in the NHS?
Convenience and saving time: Using a smartphone allows for the easy sharing of images, enabling doctors and nurses to easily obtain advice or discuss a patient with a colleague. There are clear time-saving implications of SMS, IMs and app based communications, rather than having to find the person/people you need to speak to, potentially interrupting them or waiting for them to become available before returning to your patient.
What issues does the prevalence of smartphones raise?
With 64% of doctors using SMS, 33% using app based messaging such as WhatsApp and 46% taking photographs to send to colleagues, it’s clear that large numbers of NHS employees are transmitting personal and often sensitive patient data via their smartphones. The benefits of communicating with such ease are clear but if the messages include identifiable patient data, data breaches are almost inevitable. In fact 27.5% of doctors surveyed believed that they still had patient related data on their smartphone, which poses a threat to data security if their smartphone was lost or stolen and without password protection.
How should this be addressed?
First of all, any smartphone used for work purposes in any instance, a healthcare environment or otherwise, should be password protected. The organisation needs to create and promote a clear BYOD policy informing all employees that should they choose to use their own devices for work, that there are clear guidelines in place to protect the organisation, the employee and their patients/clients/contacts.
The study found that 71.6% of doctors and 37% of nurses would like to be issued a secure messaging app for transmitting messages to colleagues, so it’s clear that they are seeking for the organisation to set a standard where in many cases there is nothing formal in place.
Through meetings with NHS Trusts we have found that WhatsApp has become the the default platform for daily broadcasts and updates to senior management as well as group messaging, simply because there is no other ubiquitous platform that has been adopted. Although this is a handy way of communicating, it’s often unreliable due to poor WiFi in hospitals or a lack of phone signal for employees who work out in the community visiting patients.
There are also concerns amongst IT professionals in NHS Trusts due to the lack of control over such messaging along with potential requests for access from the Information Commissioner.
How does Another Number help?
Another Number addresses these concerns by adding a second and completely separate mobile number for work to the employee’s smartphone on iPhone or Android, on any network. The number uses both the mobile network as well as Wi-Fi/3G/4G to send messages and make and receive calls so offers reliability. The organisation purchases and distributes the number which can be removed should an employee leave the organisation, although their communication will be archived for a minimum of 12 months.
Messages are all secure, encrypted and stored in the cloud and previous messages can be access on request by management if required by the Information Commissioner for example.
Pilots are available for all interested organisation, NHS or otherwise. Please firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to go ahead or simply require advice on formalising your own BYOD policy.