Nurses are routinely using their own smartphones for patient care, reveals a new survey.
The survey of frontline NHS staff found 95% of nurses owned a smartphone, just under 65% owned a tablet and that many used these devices at work.
“Healthcare organisations need to develop policies to support the safe and secure use of digital technologies in the workplace”
The findings, based on responses from 287 doctors and 564 nurses from different specialities, raise concerns about the security of patient data, suggest researchers.
The research team, from Imperial College London and Imperial College Healthcare Trust, polled clinical staff at five London hospitals and found doctors were more likely to use personal smartphones at work.
However, more than half of nurses – 53% – also stated they found smartphones “very useful” or “useful” for carrying out clinical duties.
About 35% of nurses said they had downloaded a clinical app to their device, with two thirds saying they used these as part of clinical work.
A proportion admitted sending patient data using smartphones, although doctors tended to do this much more.
Fourteen per cent of nurses said they had used SMS text messages, 6% had used app-based messaging such as WhatsApp, and 7.5% said they had used their phone’s camera and picture messaging to send a photo of a wound or X-ray to a colleague.
Many said they wanted to use their own devices at work and 37% of nurses said they would like a secure way of sending patient data to colleagues using their personal smartphone.
However, secure messaging services for smartphones are not yet available in the UK and data is unlikely to be encrypted, warned the researchers.
They said it was vital for NHS organisations to make sure staff understood the risks of sharing patient information on their own devices.
“The results provide strong evidence that healthcare organisations need to develop policies to support the safe and secure use of digital technologies in the workplace,” they concluded in the online journal BMJ Innovations.
Nithin Thomas, chief executive of technology company SQR Systems, said: “It is not only the data that is stored on the devices but every conversation through text, voice or video using an app that is potentially exposing sensitive data that can be exploited by criminals.”