Most doctors are using smartphones in their medical practice, which comes with big benefits and also some risks. Implement these best practices for smartphones in healthcare to ensure you are getting the most out of your mobile technology at work.

The state of smartphones in medical practice

According to a survey of physicians and students at three medical schools, at least 90% of current and future doctors own a smartphone. Of those with smartphones, over 80% have used their device in a clinical setting.

As smartphones make their way into the practice, healthcare professionals have found lots of ways to use them. The most common is medical reference. Nearly all respondents to a recent survey say the primary benefit of mobile medical technology is quick and easy access to information.

Following these usage patterns, smartphone apps for healthcare are primarily geared towards disease diagnosis and drug reference. A smaller portion is designed for medical calculations, literature review, and clinical communication, among other functions.

Best practices for smartphones in healthcare

With medical professionals checking their smartphones for a range of clinical purposes, practitioners should make sure their teams are using these devices safely and to their full capacity. Here are six do’s and don’ts of smartphones in the medical practice.


1. Implement best practices for mobile device security

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT has a guide with five steps organizations can take to manage mobile devices used by health care providers and professionals. Recommend actions include implementing user authentication controls and remote lock and wipe capabilities, installing security programs, and employing encryption.

2. Develop codes of conduct to guide smartphone use

As Rachel Katz, M.D. explains, a code of conduct can change the culture around smartphone use to make sure attending physicians, residents, and students are staying focused on patient care.

In response to research about smartphone use that Katz published in the Journal of Hospital Medicine in 2012, New York City’s Jacobi Medical Center became one of the first hospitals to institute a smartphone policy. Among other changes, the policy has created an awareness on the part of medical professionals in training. The policy requires trainees to explain why they are using their smartphone when it’s required in a clinical setting.

3) Use smartphones to their full potential

A range of new medical apps allow doctors, staff, and administrators to use smart devices for more than medical reference. Solutions like Mobius Clinic improve clinical efficiency by using mobile phones to streamline communication and workflow.

Using Mobius Clinic, practitioners can share tasks, automatically collect vitals, and add photos to patient records. Smart use of mobile devices can turn existing smartphones invaluable clinical tools.

Smart use of mobile devices can turn existing smartphones invaluable clinical tools.


1. Let smartphones become a source of distraction

With the ubiquity of smartphones, the potential for distraction has also increased. The New York Times has called the phenomenon “distracted doctoring,” emphasizing the need for hospitals and medical schools to limit the use of devices and keep practitioners focused on patients instead of gadgets.

2. Use smartphones in place of a trained medical professional

While doctors don’t need convincing, smart technology should never replace consultation from a trained healthcare professional. Smartphones are convenient reference tools, but users should remember to also draw on the expertise of their medical team and colleagues.

3. Ignore security recommendations

Nearly 90 percent of all healthcare workers use their personal smartphones for at work. But a recent study found that 41 percent of those employees’ personal devices are not password protected, and 53 percent use them to access unsecured Wi-Fi networks. Follow best practices for mobile device security to ensure that patient medical data stays secure.

Have a smartphone policy for your healthcare organization

Whether you work in a hospital or clinic, support your team to implement these best practices for smartphones in healthcare. It is also valuable to become familiar with your organization’s mobile device policies. If policies don’t already exist, work with appropriate IT staff and leadership to create them.

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