When healthcare communications firm Spok first began investigating the prevalence of mobile strategies in 2012, only a third of survey respondents reported that their organization had a formalized strategy in place. While this number has generally increased over time, the company’s most recent annual survey of US healthcare professionals found, for the first time, a decrease in the year-to-year reported prevalence of a documented mobile strategy in health systems.
“Between 2017 and 2018, we saw the first decrease in the reported usage of documented mobile strategies” from 65 percent to 57 percent, the authors of the survey wrote. “We think this could indicate that organizations have become more comfortable with communication devices and are less likely to formalize and document strategies to guide their use. It’s also possible that survey participants weren’t aware of policies in place, representing a potential education issue for the organizations participating.”
According to the survey — which polled more than 300 healthcare professionals, 44 percent of whom were physicians, nurses, or other clinicians — 46 percent of those who indicated their organization had a documented mobile strategies said it was primarily viewed was a communication initiative, as opposed to a clinical (25 percent) or technologic (24 percent) one.
Among the most prevalent features included in respondents’ mobile strategies were: mobile management and security (56 percent), mobile device selection (52 percent), integration with EHRs (48 percent) infrastructure assessment (45 percent), clinical workflow evaluation (43 percent), device ownership strategies such as “Bring Your Own Device” (34 percent), and mobile app strategies (29 percent). Within a subset of survey participants who said that their organization’s mobile strategy had been changed since it was first established, the most common reasons for the update were better meeting the needs of end users (39 percent), changes in clinical workflows (28 percent), needing to address security and compliance changes (25 percent), and the availability of new mobile devices on the market (21 percent).
Although the these policies are primarily being enforced by organizations’ telecommunications teams, clinical informatics teams, or security teams, only 39 percent of respondents said that they believed their mobile policy was enforced “extremely well on a consistent basis.” Thirty-three percent said they are generally well enforced “most of the time,” while four percent reported poor and inconsistent enforcement.
“Taken together, these results show room for improvement for most as a single incident can wreak havoc on a health system’s reputation (and finances) and erode patient trust,” the authors wrote. “The good news is that organizations are taking actions to measure adherence to mobile policies. Participants said their organizations use a variety of measurement methods, including education or other programs, technology or data gathered from devices, direct feedback, and surveys. However, 21 percent of respondents lack a method of validating compliance altogether, which could represent a significant gap.”
Nearly three-quarters of the respondents said that their organization supports smartphones, 69 percent supported Wi-Fi phones, 54 percent supported tablets, and only six percent supported wearables such as smartwatches. Most often, in-house or onsite pagers were the primary communication device carried by non-clinical staff.
The survey identified common trends among the respondents’ mobile strategies and the issues facing them, such the challenges of insufficient Wi-Fi or cellular coverage within a facility. Other key findings included the decreasing number of organizations using secure texting, and mixed interest in extending mobile strategies to include patients and families.
“While many have made strides in addressing their mobile device challenges, slow progress in areas such as Wi-Fi and cellular connectivity likely frustrates staff and can lead to patient safety issues and lack of adoption and acceptance of mobile strategies,” the authors wrote in the survey report. “The role of devices in everyone’s lives has increased, and care team members feel this acutely. It’s up to hospitals not only to define appropriate device usage, but also to monitor when technology use becomes a barrier to care and human interaction.