Five benefits of using smartphones for nurse communication

Sept. 4, 2018
Terry Zysk, CEO, LiveProcess

Should nurses be using smartphones for work?

It’s a question every healthcare facility is going to have to answer. Consider the widespread use of smartphones today:

  • Nearly all Americans—95%—own a cellphone of some kind, and 77% of Americans own a smartphone.1
  • 90% of employees use smartphones for work.2
  • 60% of employees use mobile apps for work-related activity.3

In other words, the trend lines for smartphone usage have already been drawn. For the healthcare organizations planning to deploy a mobile communication platform that supports smartphones (63% in 20164 , and still growing), a better question might be:

How can nurses make the best use of smartphones at work?

Five benefits of using smartphones for nurse communication

Courtesy of LiveProcess

Studies of the advantages of smartphones for nurses5 are burgeoning, and the results are positive. These are just five of the ways in which using smartphones can support nurses’ productivity, effectiveness, and job satisfaction.

  1. Enhancing coordination among care providers

Smartphones enable two-way communication, providing instant support, feedback, and team-building. Traditional methods of hospital communication like PA announcements, personal pagers, or alarms—get a person’s attention—but they don’t allow a response. Even a simple response of, “I’m on my way” from a physician, security officer, or a member of the housekeeping staff helps nurses focus on performing their unique roles as part of larger healthcare team.

  1. Enabling communication at the point of care

Two-way communication provides nurses the opportunity to remain with a patient rather than tracking down a staff member who isn’t responding. Although many hospitals have adopted Computers on Wheels (COWs) to provide mobile workstations, nurses cannot realistically pull a COW behind them on every patient call, and a COW is more appropriate for recordkeeping than real-time communication. A smartphone allows communication that motivates immediate action.

  1. Improving time management

Simply removing the need to run around to coordinate with other care team members saves time: One study found that a group of nurses were able to save over 2.5 hours6 during a 12-hour shift by changing from pagers to smartphones. Time savings that are harder to measure—but no less real—come from preventing time-consuming issues that arise from a too-slow response. While there’s no way to count the number of adverse events that don’t happen, every nurse knows that patient falls and similar accidents create major disruptions.

  1. Mitigating nursing burnout

Numbers 1, 2, and 3 on this list alone illustrate how smartphones can reduce stress to prevent nurse burnout. Using a smartphone to foster teamwork and support, reduce physical fatigue, and forestall adverse events helps to curtail stress in the workplace. Just as important, returning more time to nurses allows them to provide a higher level of patient care, which leads to higher job satisfaction for nurses—and may lead to higher patient satisfaction.7

  1. Integrating communication streams and devices

Nurses are often communicating with—and carrying around—more devices than can be reasonably managed by one person. A nurse might be juggling a Blackberry, a pager, a Spectralink device, and a smartphone all at once, leading to a pocketful of buzzes, pings, and alarms that create confusion rather than accelerating response times. Gathering all of these functions on a single device streamlines communication and cuts the clutter. If nurses are using a smartphone communication app linked to a larger clinical communication and collaboration platform, the hospital also sees the benefit, as communications via the app are tracked and logged. Documentation of hospital communications, including message receipt, response rate and turnaround time, and content can enhance accountability and even inform operational analytics.

Implementing smartphones as part of a hospital communication system

As more and more healthcare facilities adopt smartphones as a communication tool, challenges will arise. Like many technologies, smartphones can become a distraction if rules for usage aren’t clear. Privacy and the potential for infection in vulnerable patients are other important issues to consider. Often these concerns boil down to a decision about who should own and control the device and the applications it uses.

Healthcare experts are divided on the issue of device ownership. Some say the security and health risks of a BYOD policy8 are too great, and that only hospital-issued devices running company-approved apps offer adequate safeguards. Proponents note that BYOD has increased efficiency and cut costs9 for facilities who have adopted it, with a possible boost in proficiency because users don’t have to learn new technology.

For the foreseeable future, the best choice for device ownership will depend on the individual facility. Fortunately, the benefits of smartphone usage for nurses are achievable with either personal or hospital-owned devices.

Next steps

Read how healthcare team communication tools can reduce nurse burnout10 in this blog post.


  1. “Mobile Fact Sheet,” Pew Research Center: Internet, Science & Tech, 5 Feb. 2018,
  2. Montgomery, Sue, “Nurses Using Smartphones and Tablets at Work,” Working Nurse,
  3. Hanley, Patrick, “14 Employee Mobile Usage Statistics Your Company Can’t Ignore,” Dynamic Signal, 4 Oct. 2017,
  4. Spyglass Consulting Group, “Large‐scale Smartphone‐based deployments enable Hospital‐WideCommunications,” 18 May 2016, http://www.spyglass
  5. Yoon S. Oh et al., “A Review of the Effect of Nurses’ Use of Smartphone to Improve Patient Care,” Journal of Undergraduate Research in Alberta, 2017, Volume 6,
  6. Yoon S. Oh et al., “A Review of the Effect of Nurses’ Use of Smartphone to Improve Patient Care,” Journal of Undergraduate Research in Alberta, 2017, Volume 6,
  7. Bryant, Meg, “Mobile Device Use Tied to Higher Patient Experience Scores, Survey Finds,” Healthcare Dive, 13 Apr. 2018,
  8. Montgomery, Sue, “Nurses Using Smartphones and Tablets at Work,” Working Nurse,
  9. Brown, Nathan, “The Pros and Cons of Adopting BYOD,” Nextech Blog, 12 Mar. 2015,
  10. Zysk, Terry, “Healthcare Team Communication Tools to Reduce Nurse Burnout,” LiveProcess, 13 Mar. 2018,