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More and more of a modern clinical workflow involves the use of technology and in particular, smartphones. Everyone has a smartphone, but is it appropriate for that same personal device to be used by caregivers in the healthcare industry at home and work?

According to the latest Frost & Sullivan whitepaper on personal smartphone use in specialised industries, the answer is a clear no. An industry specific, purpose-built device is best practice and crucial in a demanding healthcare delivery environment.

Think about the fragile nature of the smartphone in your pocket. They simply aren’t up to the rough and tumble nature of healthcare work. Screens are easily cracked, cases are not fully waterproof. Purpose-built devices are designed with caregiver activity in mind and are constructed out of materials such as sturdy resin instead of easily dented aluminium or shattered glass and are certified dust and water resistant. Rugged purpose-built devices result in lower amounts of downtime and fewer moments of scrambling to find a replacement for broken consumer devices, as well as lower maintenance costs in the long run as repairs and replacements are less frequent.

Infection control is an important task for any healthcare facility and if not taken seriously, can have deadly consequences. The precious finishes of consumer devices can be damaged by hospital grade cleaning solvents that are used multiple times a day to achieve mandatory infection control regulations. Purpose-built devices take this into consideration and can withstand hospital disinfectants, improving patient care.

Battery life on consumer smartphones has improved, but as mainstream devices are designed to be small and slim, they aren’t up to the task of constant use for 8, 10 or 12-hour shifts common in healthcare delivery. Not only are the batteries in purpose-built devices larger, but support features like rack charging so all a department’s devices can be charged simultaneously, and hot-swappable batteries, removing the need to wait for a device to be charged, allowing staff to get on with the job of providing excellent patient care.

Consumer devices don’t support DECT technology for placing voice calls. DECT gives mobile staff a dedicated, interference-free channel for secure communications. Smartphones don’t have mission-critical Wi-Fi reception quality, whereas a purpose-built device is designed from the ground up to use Wi-Fi for voice calls in your environment and includes built-in SIP support for seamless voice communication over Wi-Fi, resulting in fewer dropped calls, plus superior latency and jitter.

Poorly configured notifications on consumer devices are distracting and possibly bringing on information overload by inundating caregivers with messages irrelevant to them. Purpose built devices allow smart filtering rules that can be customised by units or wards and even down to individual patients. By only showing a caregiver what is important, excessive workflow interruptions are reduced, increasing productivity.

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) programs seem like a good idea as staff can use the device they already own and are familiar with, however, BYOD can cost more in the long run once you factor in support, risk management and lost productivity. Frost & Sullivan research shows that while 80% of organizations support Android OS, 57% support Apple and 30% support Windows Mobile. That’s a lot of software for your IT team to manage and keep secure as to meet strict healthcare industry compliance regulation.

Other features purpose-built devices have that consumer grade smartphones lack include:

  • Sturdy clips that hold firmly onto even a single layer of fabric. Perfect for clinician’s scrubs.
  • Colour-coded LED priority beacons for quick, easy recognition of alert types, avoiding notification deluge common on consumer devices.
  • Simple push button alarms and automated “man-down/no movement” alarms provide caregivers with additional assurance in case of the unforeseen.
  • Built-in barcode and near field communications (NFC) scanners to avoid data entry errors and time spent duplicating data into medical record systems.

Most organisations are still relying on consumer devices brought into the organisation by staff. This is a risky move that increases downtime, lowers productivity and can even put patient care at risk. Purpose-built devices are superior to consumer-grade smartphones because their rugged design suits constant use in a hospital environment, are designed for high availability communications required to support patient care and provide easier integration with healthcare applications and IT systems.