The world is embracing mobile technology.
So why isn't healthcare?
I've previously discussed the importance of mobile technology and its place in healthcare. With smartphone adoption continuing to grow at a rapid rate, hardware that is already widely adopted should be accompanied by software that provides value without compromising aesthetic. Yet hospitals remain hesitant to rush forward and allow smartphone usage in the workplace, as it presents potential issues with remaining HIPAA-compliant. It's an understandable predicament, as hospitals cannot support the budget to provide smartphones yet cannot rely on personal tech to skate the potential HIPAA violation.
However, there are software developers who are facing these issues head-on, either by actively ensuring that their technology is HIPAA-complaint, regardless of the use of hardware, or simply providing solutions to help the end-user, in this case, the healthcare professional, with no information about a patient included.
So what seems to be the holdup?
It is my firm belief that a critical component of this slow-moving embrace of mobile technology doesn't necessarily come from a lack of trust in nurses and other healthcare professionals, but instead a distrust of perception.
Let me frame this differently. I am quite an avid coffee drinker; while I'd like to think it's, solely, because coffee is delicious, I'll be the first to admit that there are some mornings where I've achieved levels of productivity only caffeine can bring to one as groggy as myself before 8 am. Most nurses share the same sentiment because dependence on caffeine is a habit naturally created from the universal struggle of nursing school.
So if we all agree that coffee helps us stay alert and productive, why is the NHS banning the consumption of coffee on the job? I can tell you that it's not because the NHS is fighting the unhealthy elements of coffee; according to The Independent, the decision was based on the notion that “having a hot drink in front of patients gives the impression staff are slacking.”
Because an ironically opposite perception overshadows the benefits of coffee, decisions such as this are being made that are more averse to productivity – and, more importantly, happiness – in the workplace.
The same holds true for the use of smartphones in the workplace. Even if a nurse is on the phone to set a timer, check notifications from colleagues, or look up a crucial medical tidbit, the perception holds that they are either texting or playing Angry Birds.
It's easy for any of us to get aggravated at either of these scenarios, but I know this is a common misconception. I can recall last week attending a meeting where someone was on their phone the whole time. Despite my immediate assumption that the individual wasn't paying attention, the chances of him taking notes were the same as me surfing Reddit on my computer. As I said, it's not the misconception of the few, but an assumption of the masses.
I am a firm proponent of using a tool or resource when appropriate to better your work life. If I'm getting up before the sun comes out, you'll catch me with a mug in my hand until the afternoon. If I need to set a reminder on my phone, I'll use it as if I was lost in the woods in need of my phone's GPS. While I understand the hesitation from decision makers to enable this at the cost of poor behavior from hospital patients, I believe this is merely delaying the inevitable. By empowering nurses with the capabilities of today's mobile technology and establishing a level of trust that goes with this choice, healthcare can shape a new perception – that when a nurse is using a phone while working, it is for the same reason one drinks coffee, writes charts, or listens to my whining when I'm in the hospital: to help, to heal, to save.
Besides, if anyone really wanted to slack off, they'd just use their phone in the bathroom. Hopefully, the NHS doesn't think bathroom breaks are an indicator of slacking off and takes those away too!