Healthcare News & Insights

Are tablets and smartphones tools or distractions?

Is the prevalence of gadgets in health care a good thing for patient care? Or is it too much of a tempting distraction? More hospitals and practices are equipping physicians and other health care providers with tablets, smartphones and similar devices so they can stay connected and access critical data no matter where they are.

Few would argue that’s not a significant benefit. But many experts are concerned that the growing use of the devices is increasing certain risks as well. For starters, if doctors and other health care pros get too used to staring at a device for information, they may pay less attention to the patient in front of them.

And that assumes employees are using the devices strictly for work purposes. But some employees are inevitably tempted to access email, Facebook and other decidedly non-work-appropriate uses. And while that may seem like something only a rare few would stoop to doing, research shows quite the opposite. In fact, in one survey, 55% of technicians who monitor bypass machines said they had talked on their cellphones during surgeries, and half said they had texted during surgery.

To keep the benefits of mobile devices without creating a potentially risky for patients, hospitals and practices using the devices need to write — and thoroughly train employees on — a policy that covers all aspects of the use of tablets, cell phones, etc. The policy should cover both employer-issued and private devices brought to work, as well as when/how it’s appropriate to use them on the job.

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