Filipino Nurses' Use of Smartphones in Clinical Settings

9 September, 2019

Dear HIFA colleagues,

On behalf of the HIFA working group on Mobile Healthcare Information For All (mHIFA), we are always looking at ways in which mobile phones might be used more effectively by health workers (and by the general public). I was interested to see this new paper in the journal CIN: Computers, Informatics, Nursing 2019. It raises important questions about the use of health workers' personal smartphones, and suggests 'it is crucial for hospitals to provide mobile phones or other similar healthcare information technologies for nurses to use'.

CITATION: Filipino Nurses' Use of Smartphones in Clinical Settings

John Robert Bautista, MPH, RN

CIN: Computers, Informatics, Nursing 2019 (restricted access)

SUMMARY: While previous research has examined specific ways that nurses have used smartphones for work purposes in clinical settings, large-sample quantitative studies are limited, par-ticularly in Asia. To address this research gap, this study pro-vided a ranking on how nurses have used their smartphones for work purposes in clinical settings and identified differ-ences based on demographic and organizational factors. In January to June 2017, a pen-and-paper survey was admin-istered to 517 staff nurses employed in 19 tertiary-level gen-eral hospitals in Metro Manila, Philippines. Results show that nurses frequently used their smartphones to exchange voice calls and text messages with other nurses and doc-tors. Results also showed that specific items reflecting the use of smartphones for communication purposes differed according to gender, age, hospital ownership, nursing area, number of patients handled in last shift, and presence of a hospital-provided mobile phone. Next, some items for information-seeking purposes differed according to highest educational attainment and years of clinical experience. Moreover, some items for documentation purposes differed according to age, hospital ownership, and number of pa-tients handled in last shift. Overall, the results of this study can be used to guide policies on the use of smartphones in clinical settings.


Results showed that nurses in the Philippines primarily used their smartphones to communicate with fellow nurses and physicians through legacy mobile functions, such as voice calls and text messaging.

Interestingly, the re-sults contrast with previous work, since nurses in the US9 and UK5 mostly used their smartphones to mark their calen-dars or access the Internet to search for clinical information.

Information seeking via e-books was the only item for which results differed according to highest educational attain-ment and years of clinical experience. First, participants who had finished or were currently earning postgraduate degrees used e-books for information seeking more than those with only a bachelor's degree. A potential explanation is that par-ticipants who were working toward postgraduate degrees might have used e-books during their coursework, and the information source was still relevant and accessible at work. Second, results suggest that those with fewer years of clinical experience (≤5 years) frequently used e-books for informa-tion seeking than those with more than 5 years of clinical experience. A feasible explanation is that junior staff nurses search for information via e-books to compensate for their lack of clinical experience. Results on age differences support this argument since younger participants (≤30 years of age) used e-books more frequently for information seeking.

Compared to participants from specialty areas (eg, inten-sive care unit, emergency department, operating theater), participants from general areas (eg, wards, ancillary depart-ments, and outpatient services) made more voice calls with nurses and physicians and exchanged more text messages via SMS with physicians. This is expected since general areas tend to accommodate more patients than specialty areas, thus the need for smartphones to facilitate faster communi-cation with other members of the healthcare team.

Providing mobile phones to nurses would also prevent personal costs due to smartphone usage,3,4,7 and would protect nurses' and patients' privacy since there is no need to divulge personal numbers when communicating with members of the healthcare team or patients/guardians. Considering that nurses' use of smartphones at work puts pa-tients at risk for privacy and confidentiality issues (eg, privacy violations resulting from smartphone photography and vide-ography, patient details sent to people outside the healthcare team),9,13 it is crucial for hospitals to provide mobile phones or other similar healthcare information technologies for nurses to use.


Best wishes, Neil

Coordinator, mHIFA Project (Mobile Healthcare Information For All)

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HIFA profile: Neil Pakenham-Walsh is coordinator of the HIFA global health campaign (Healthcare Information For All - ), a global community with more than 19,000 members in 177 countries, interacting on six global forums in four languages. Twitter: @hifa_org FB: