Using Smart Phones on Your Unit

Nurses General Nursing


Just curious what your facility's policy is regarding the use of smart phones for pertinent information retrieval at work on your unit. I am hearing things that range from cell phones prohibited to facilities who issue I-touches to their nurses and will download their formulary to their phones for retrieval as needed.

I have a colleague who recently informed us that using cell phones at work is a HIPAA violation, since you could send pictures and text on it, and that this is well documented in the literature. This really doesn't fit with what I understand to be a HIPPA violation, as I thought you had to actually access or give out data in a manner that was prohibited, not just ac cess data that you store on your own personal smart phone.

So, my questions to AN readers are:

1. Does you facility have any rules against using your smart phone or an I-Touch (or similar device) for nursing information retrieval at work? if so, what is allowed and what is prohibited?

2. What is your opinion of smart phones being a HIPAA violation when used in a hospitla setting? (ie Am I missing something here?)

Thanks in advance for your opinions and thoughts. I have thought about this all day and thought I'd see what AN readers think. -Penguin67

Specializes in Med/Surg and ANCC RN-BC.

I have a blackberry and I love having my drug guide on it. I think it's a great resource. I know that at my hospital we can only use our drug guides in the medication room. I can totally understand why it could be a HIPPA violation, but I would never take pics or send texts about them.

I also know at my hospital that when we go into the computerized mar that there is a link we can use to look up our drugs if we don't understand them.

Nice. Another misperception of HIPAA. Inanimate objects can NOT violate HIPAA. People do. Tell your coworker that he is full of crap. There may be "literature" of how PEOPLE violated HIPAA by using smartphones and technology, but that's not the machines fault.

Specializes in NICU, Vascular, Oncology, Telemetry.

I agree with the previous two posts - it's people and their poor judgment, not technology, that violate HIPAA. Why is it that nurses aren't to be trusted with using the technology properly, but doctors are? Every hospital I've worked in allows the docs to use their phones to be integrated into order writing/patient info retrieval/etc. (I understand they also have to be on-call and actually have order writing privileges and nurses for the most part, don't). Most of the hospitals didn't have a problem with nurses and their phones, but we certainly weren't encouraged to use them as a resource. It's funny everyone is striving toward a "paperless environment", but yet don't want to always give us the tools to get there and prosper. It's the future.

The hospital I worked for in the past did not allow cellphone's of any sort. We even had to sign that we acknowledged we were informed of the policy and agree to abide by it. Apparently there was an issue in the ER where a PCT took a picture of a patient and the patient found out and was not happy about it. Personally I thought it was a stupid policy that punished all of the hospital staff for the stupidity of one person. I have the Iphone and it has a some great drug guides as well as applications that can calculate drip rates. This comes in extremely handy when you are assuming care of a patient on multiple drips and you want to just want to double check everything quickly during report.

I can't see how it's a HIPPA violation to actually have a cellphone. I would ask your co worker to specifically tell you what literature this violation is cited it.

Specializes in NICU, Vascular, Oncology, Telemetry.

Maybe they should amend the policies/literature to have employees agree specifically to not use the cameras on their phones, since that is probably the biggest threat. (Why would you??) There are many young, naive, easily-wowed students/techs/nurses/interns/whatever that think what they see is so incredible, it has to be shared. This reminds me of a true event that you may have heard about that happened about 2 years ago at a major medical institution in the country. A surgery resident, while in surgery, photographed a man's privates that had an interesting tattoo on it. Somehow or other, ther media got a hold of it. Not good. Was HIPAA violated? You bet. Was it the smartphone's fault? Let's just say the smartphone didn't get fired and kicked out of the residency program.

Sorry if I've gotten too far off topic from the OP.

Specializes in Psych..

My facility has a policy that we are not allowed to have our phones on us while working.

That said, myself, and everyone I work with, carry our phones with us. It's not an enforced rule, and it sure comes in handy. I love my drug programs. I use them all the time.

And sometimes I can really make a patient's day when I can look up a football score for them. :)

Specializes in ICU/CCU/CVICU/ED/HS.

I have and use an Iphone with multiple programs that come in very handy... My DON asked me about it one day(we also have a policy regarding the use of cell-phones) and she ended up with several "apps" as did I. Sharing technology can be benificial to patients. Now, that being said... I am not allowed to text or surf the 'net at work (facebook is VERBOTTEN!!!)

Specializes in Nurse Scientist-Research.
I have a colleague who recently informed us that using cell phones at work is a HIPAA violation, since you could send pictures and text on it, and that this is well documented in the literature.

Using a cell phone at work is no more a HIPAA violation than carrying a pen and paper, or possessing a memory and a mouth. It's how it's used. I guarantee you more HIPAA violations have been performed with those items than with any cell phone.

Using a cell phone at work can however be a violation of your facility's policy. It really hacks me off when people blame big faceless organizations (or laws) for what are simply one's facility's policy. JCAHO and HIPAA are frequently blamed for policies that they know nothing and care nothing about, but your manager doesn't want to defend what is often a goofy policy. Having said that I don't believe restrictive cell phone policies are goofy.

Every facility I've worked for forbids use of cell phones while on duty, often making exceptions for when one is on their personal breaks. Let's just say compliance and enforcement varies. And the facilities do not make exceptions for smartphones with work related apps. We have many computers on our unit, and always available bedside. We have internet access and therefore access to abundant resources. I don't know any nurse I work with that uses clinical apps off their smartphone. I have seen some of the docs & NNP's using some of those apps occasionally.

Specializes in LTC, MDS Cordnator, Mental Health.

I use my Blackberry on the floor. I text staff to find replacement staff. I text other wing Charges nurses questions for MDS. Applications for Drug guide i use all day long. We are very rural and most calls are long distance. if the staff has their phone on them they leave it on the nurses station on silent. they are allowed to check them periodically especially moms with kids. they can take there phone and use it on break.

They are going to carry them. we decided to get it out in the open. they will not leave them in thier locker and will not leave them in the car. It is a battle we will not win. No Picture taking. and can not be in their pocket.

This has reduced resident complaints. and staff have been complying.

Specializes in Health Information Management.

Oh for heaven's sake, using a smartphone in a hospital is not a HIPAA violation in and of itself! As others have noted, people violate HIPAA, not devices. Just trying to ban smartphones is NOT a sensible approach. Don't kick and scream and drum your heels about people violating HIPAA using new technology; instead, formulate cogent policies about such violations and strictly enforce them!

Devices like that are absolutely going to be a part of patient care across the boards sooner rather than later. Trying to close a facility off from such devices instead of figuring out safe and appropriate ways to integrate them into it only leaves a wider chasm to bridge in the long run. Members of management should be worrying about devising and enforcing appropriate usage and privacy policies, rather than just trying to make things easier for themselves by eliminating all smartphones from the workplace.

Wow reading this i thought it depends on the policy's of the place of employment really. Then i thought when i worked in nursing homes No phones allowed period. Moms with kids is a great excuse to have one. All i can say is that's why the place of employment has phones so in case of emergency's. Someone stated it helps them find drugs that's another good excuse to have one on you. Again i say that's why they make Drug Books and pocket drug books that your employer should have or you should buy. And as far as MDS goes. If the MDS Coordinator is not there read the chart everything is in the chart when in doubt call the DR. I think having any cell phone Smart Phone IPhone or whatever on you violates HIPAA. And as far as being in a rural area I live in Northwest Missouri the nursing home i worked in closes town was 10 miles away. Wanna see rural I'll show you rural LOL This home was out in the middle of no where in the middle of farm country it even has its own graveyard attached to it. I don't have a problem with cellphones. I do have a problem with the excuse's people come up with to have them. All I'm saying your there to work and the world will be there when you get off unless some act of god or some crazy dictator. And for the record i have written aids for texting and having them on their person and i hate writing people up. Anyone can snap a pic or put things on to You Tube. I have seen nursing home footage on You Tube via phone. I think Hospital and Nursing homes even DR's Offices should have a zero talerence policy on phones. I have to tell you and I'm being honest if i was to look on you tube and see my grandparent or even my parents on their and i know they are in a home of some sort some heads will roll and you would do the same. These are my thoughts use them as you wish ... Anthony

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