Digital tools have hazards too

In 2015 I hope to read and share more about research as renewal of an old research challenge I started a few years ago on @NursingIdeas.

The Article: McBride DL, LeVasseur SA, Li D Non-Work-Related Use of Personal Mobile Phones by Hospital Registered Nurses. JMIR mHealth uHealth 2015;3(1):e3

DOI: 10.2196/mhealth.4001

Digital Tools

Big Idea: The significant growth of personal smartphones with data connectivity in the workplace can be hazardous to patient care. Noting my personal bias for the use of digital tools this was a healthy article to read. The article even recognizes the positive potential of personal mobile devices for patient care, however, it focuses on the growing risk they pose as the attention competitor in an already busy work environment.

Evidence: The evidence was a 30 question survey, so it is not the strongest method. The surveyed population was the Academy of Medical Surgical Nurses, and 825 respondents from 10,978 so close to 5% response rate. So this is a single healthcare profession and a subspecialty of that, so not something that might be widely generalizable to other professions given the variations in workflows and environments.


Notable responses 78% of respondents admitted to using their personal devices during work hours. 38% sent personal messages, 26% read news, 21% checked social networks, 10% had shopped and 7% played games during work hours.

So What?: This article calls into question the competition for care providers attention. It is difficult to say that mobile devices have changed the distraction of personal issues from work hours. For example, I’ve know or providers to use hospital telephones to have personal conversations, which requires no device or personal plan. This is the one argument on the pro- personal device argument I like to bring up. Professional practice is always an issue, there are paper and pen versions of crosswords that can just as easily distract. The issue of disengagement is a wider topic for organizations to combat. My perception is that organizations need to focus on positive opportunities (e.g. Bring Your Own Technology, BYOT) while developing a professional work culture around the use of mobile devices. With increasing demands for quality and safety more attention is required and it is important for individual providers as well as organizations to think about how they can leverage digital tools to help while mitigating the hazards they pose.

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