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Am J Surg. 2015 Jan;209(1):45-51. doi: 10.1016/j.amjsurg.2014.08.030. Epub 2014 Oct 22.

Smartphones let surgeons know WhatsApp: an analysis of communication in emergency surgical teams.

Author information

1
Centre for Patient Safety and Service Quality, Department of Surgery and Cancer, St Mary's Hospital, Imperial College London, London, UK. Electronic address: m.johnston@imperial.ac.uk.
2
Centre for Health Policy, Department of Surgery and Cancer, St Mary's Hospital, Imperial College London, London, UK.
3
Centre for Patient Safety and Service Quality, Department of Surgery and Cancer, St Mary's Hospital, Imperial College London, London, UK.
4
Department of Surgery, Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, London, UK.
5
Department of Surgery and Cancer, Imperial College London, London, UK.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Outdated communication technologies in healthcare can place patient safety at risk. This study aimed to evaluate implementation of the WhatsApp messaging service within emergency surgical teams.

METHODS:

A prospective mixed-methods study was conducted in a London hospital. All emergency surgery team members (n = 40) used WhatsApp for communication for 19 weeks. The initiator and receiver of communication were compared for response times and communication types. Safety events were reported using direct quotations.

RESULTS:

More than 1,100 hours of communication pertaining to 636 patients were recorded, generating 1,495 communication events. The attending initiated the most instruction-giving communication, whereas interns asked the most clinical questions (P < .001). The resident was the speediest responder to communication compared to the intern and attending (P < .001). The participants felt that WhatsApp helped flatten the hierarchy within the team.

CONCLUSIONS:

WhatsApp represents a safe, efficient communication technology. This study lays the foundations for quality improvement innovations delivered over smartphones.

KEYWORDS:

Communication; Information technology; Patient safety; Surgery; mHealth

PMID:
25454952
DOI:
10.1016/j.amjsurg.2014.08.030
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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