Personal Electronic Devices in Healthcare

December 4, 2018 | Healthcare Risk, Quality, & Safety Guidance

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The HIPAA Privacy Rule

Photog​​raphy, Filming, and Other Recording of Patients​

​Cell phones, smartphones, tablets, and other personal electronic devices (PEDs) are now commonplace in healthcare and other workplaces. According to a 2016 Kantar Media survey of more than 3,000 physicians, nearly 81% use smartphones for work-related purposes (Healthcare Client Services).

It's not just physicians who are using them. A 2015 microsurvey of 241 nurses by InCrowd found that 93% owned a smartphone, 88% of whom reported using their phone for work-related activities, including finding drug information (73%), finding information on diseases and disorders (72%), and communicating with colleagues (69%). Most patients also own PEDs: Pew Research reported in 2018 that 77% of U.S. adults owned a smartphone, 95% owned a cell phone of some type, and 53% owned a tablet—and many will expect to be able to use their devices while in a healthcare facility.

PEDs can enhance communication among caregivers and between caregivers and their patients, offer quick access to patient data and reference material, and promote patient satisfaction by allowing patients and visitors to remain connected to their everyday lives. Physicians are also using PEDs to connect to the facility's electronic health record (EHR) system, to monitor patient vital signs, to promote patient education, and to integrate into a facility's mobile health system.

However, PEDs also present risks, which are discussed in this guidance article and in Personal Electronic Devices in Healthcare: Know the Risks. ​

A PED's capability to access, process, and store patient data brings with it a variety of regulatory and legal risks, and these risks must be analyzed to ensure that ePHI is reasonably and appropriately protected. Failure to effectively safeguard ePHI can threaten the integrity and accessibility of patient information, creating patient safety risks as well as violations of the HIPAA security and privacy rules. For more information on the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and patient privacy, see Regulations and Standards. Protected health information (PHI) privacy and security...

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