A new survey indicates nurses are relying more than ever on their smartphone for clinical care – to the detriment of the so-called "doctor on call."
Conducted by InCrowd, a Boston-based market intelligence firm, the survey found that 95 percent of the 241 responding nurses own a smartphone and 88 percent use smartphone apps at work. More intriguing, 52 percent said they use an app instead of asking a colleague, and 32 percent said they consult their smartphone instead of a physician.
"The hospital gets very busy and there isn't always someone available to bounce ideas off of," one respondent said. Said another: "It's often easier to get the information needed using my smartphone – I don't have to wait for a response from a coworker."
[See also: How apps can empower nurses]
Nurses have long been seen as an under-appreciated market for mHealth technology, and one that differs significantly from doctors, but that seems to be changing. Companies like Voalte are marketing communications platforms targeted at nurses, and even IBM has come out with a line of nurse-specific apps.
"There's a lot of untapped potential in the use of mobile apps for nursing," Judy Murphy, IBM's chief nursing officer, told mHealth News.
Unlike physicians, who are looking for apps that can retrieve information, enter orders and push notifications, nurses need apps that assist their workflow, offer quick information and coordinate multiple activities.
"It's all about care coordination," Murphy said. "Nurses want apps that can help them organize their day."
The ideal app will be simple in nature, so that it can be used quickly, and will help nurses organize several functions, from taking care of multiple patients to addressing orders from doctors, according to Murphy. Some tasks, like entering complex data into the EMR, actually clutter the form factor of the smartphone and are best handled at a workstation.
According to the InCrowd survey, nurses are quick to point out that their smartphones "enhance but don't substitute" for the physician, but when they're running around and need a quick question answered about medications, illnesses or symptoms, sometimes the app does the job more effectively – such as "in patient homecare situations when I need quick answers without making a bunch of phone calls," or "so I can make an educated suggestion to the doctor."
According to the survey, 73 percent of the nurses surveyed use their smartphones to look up drug information at the bedside, while 72 percent use it to look up various diseases or disorders. And befitting the various roles of the smartphone in the healthcare setting, 69 percent of nurses said they use their smartphones to stay in touch with colleagues. Other uses include viewing images and setting timers for medication administration.
Finally, the survey found that nurses are using smartphones in the workplace no matter who's paying for them. Some 87 percent of those surveyed said their employer isn't covering any costs related to the smartphone, while 9 percent are reimbursed for the cost of the monthly bill, 1 percent receive some reimbursement for the cost of the smartphone, and 3 percent are reimbursed for both the phone and the phone bill. Less than 1 percent, meanwhile, said their institution bans the use of personal smartphones while on duty.
"We're hitting the tip of the iceberg here with apps that a nurse will want and will use," Murphy said.