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Report: Hospital Staff Continue to Use a Diverse Mix of Mobile Devices, Including Pagers

May 2, 2017
by Heather Landi
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In order to do their jobs, hospital clinicians and non-clinical staff still carry a diverse mix of mobile devices. For the sixth straight year, according to an annual Spok, Inc. survey, smartphones are the most popular device, with 77 percent of respondents saying their organization supports them, while other tools, including pagers, maintain strong representation.

The Spok survey found that smartphone use has continually increased, and wide-area pagers are gradually declining, but are still used by 50 percent of respondents. And then there are the other devices that show a mixed trajectory. “Clearly there is no standard device and hospitals are still figuring out what is most appropriate for different members of their staff given hospital resources, functional requirements, and staff expectations. For this reason, it remains critical that health systems implement communication solutions that are device neutral,” the Spok survey report authors wrote.

“Again this year, the survey shows that pagers play a major role in hospital communications,” Vince Kelly, chief executive officer of Spok Holdings, Inc, said.

The findings were part of Springfield, Va.-based Spok’s two-part survey report on mobility strategies in healthcare. This research, conducted by the healthcare communications company Spok, since 2011, is designed to assess mobile workflow enablement progress and trends in hospitals across the country. More than 300 healthcare professionals throughout the U.S. responded to this year’s questions about mobile strategy development, bring your own device (BYOD) policies, communications infrastructure, and opportunities to improve mobile communications.

“The first installment of our 2017 research, released last month, examined how hospitals are developing, maintaining, and executing on their mobile strategies,” Hemant Goel, president of Spok, said in a statement. “This second piece in our two-part series looks at the details behind these strategies. For example, we asked about the types of mobile devices particular staff carry, what challenges hospitals are encountering with mobile device usage, and whether they support BYOD programs.”

As reported by Healthcare Informatics, the first of two reports on the results of the annual mobility strategies in healthcare survey found that, compared to 2012, twice as many healthcare professional respondents said they have a documented mobile strategy within their organization.

The second piece of the two-part report, titled The State of Mobile Communications in Healthcare: Devices, Infrastructure, and Access, presents details around mobile device types and communication infrastructure.

When looking at the types of medical devices that hospital staff use, respondents ranked voice badges the lowest for reliability and ranked smartphones and pagers as most reliable. As cited above, while 77 percent of respondent use smartphones, they also use other tools, such as pagers. Twenty-one percent of surveyed healthcare professionals said their organization uses encrypted pagers.

The survey findings also revealed that preferred mobile devices depend on the user, and smartphones are not the preferred device for all staff. The survey specifically asked respondents about the primary devices used by non-clinical staff. In-house pagers dominate as the device of choice for these roles (48 percent), smartphones rank second (40 percent), and Wi-Fi phones came in third (30 percent), according to the survey results.

According to respondents, 59 percent of hospitals allow some form of bring-your-own-device (BYOD), while 4 percent said their organization is planning for BYOD. Nineteen percent of respondents said their hospitals do not allow BYOD, and 18 percent responded “don’t know.” The survey revealed that 90 percent of physicians at bring-your-own-device supporting hospitals participate in the BYOD programs.

The study also found that the number of hospitals that use enterprise mobility management solutions has grown by 6 percentage points since 2016.

The research this year reveals that hospitals are making progress in addressing the previously identified infrastructure gaps in order to better support mobile strategies and devices. Forty-five percent of respondents answered that Wi-Fi coverage is a challenge for mobile device users, and 38 percent cited cellular coverage as problematic, Goel said, however, both of these data points showed a 9 percentage point improvement over 2016.

In addition, data security as a mobile device challenge dropped from 43 percent to 31 percent. “Though there is still a lot of room for improvement, the responses this year demonstrate that hospitals are taking action and making progress addressing these important issues,” Goel stated.

The report also assessed the backup communication plans hospitals have in place should cellular networks become overloaded or fail, and the perceived reliability of different communication channels.

Survey participants were also asked to identify the biggest opportunity for mobile communication improvements over the next three to five years. Answers included enhancing patient care team collaboration, and using mobile strategies to simplify technology and bring uniformity across hospital systems


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