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JMIR Mhealth Uhealth. 2016 May 19;4(2):e61. doi: 10.2196/mhealth.4904.

Mobile Phone Use Among Medical Residents: A Cross-Sectional Multicenter Survey in Saudi Arabia.

Author information

1
College of Medicine, Department of Family and Community Medicine, King Saud University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. amrjamal@ksu.edu.sa.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Mobile phones have great potential for medical education, as they allow health care providers and students to access resources efficiently at the precise time at the point-of-care to help in informed decision making.

OBJECTIVE:

The objective of the study was to evaluate the prevalence of mobile phone usage among medical residents and to explore their attitudes, perceptions, and the challenges they experience when using mobile phones in academic and clinical practice.

METHODS:

A cross-sectional survey was conducted on all 133 residents in 17 different specialties across two large academic hospitals in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The Web-based validated questionnaire measured mobile phone platform preferences, and their uses in general and medical practice. The perception of confidentiality and safety impact of using mobile phones for communication and accessing patient's data was also explored, alongside challenges of use and how residents learn to use their mobile phone.

RESULTS:

With a response rate of 101/133 (75.9%) and mean age of 27.8 (SD 3.0) years, we found that 100/101 (99.0%) of participants were mobile phone users with mean duration of use of 5.12 (SD 2.4) years, and a range from 1 to 12 years. There was no significant difference in use between male and female respondents. A negative linear correlation was found between age and use duration (P=.004). The most common operating system used by participants was the iOS platform (55/101, 54.5%), with English the most commonly used language to operate residents' mobile phones (96/100, 96.0%) despite their native language being Arabic. For communication outside medical practice, chatting applications such as WhatsApp matched phone calls as most commonly used tools (each 88/101, 87.1%). These were also the primary tools for medical communication, but used at a lower rate (each 65/101, 64.4%). In medical practice, drug (83/101, 82.2%) and medical (80/101, 79.2%) references and medical calculation applications (61/101, 60.4%) were the most commonly used. Short battery life (48/92, 52%) was the most common technical difficulty, and distraction at least on a weekly basis (54/92, 58%) was the most likely side effect of using a mobile phone in medical practice. Practically, all participants agreed with the idea of integrating medical staff mobile phones with the hospital information system. Most residents described themselves as self-learners, while half learned from peers, and a quarter learned from the Internet. Only 7/101 (6.9%) had received formal training on the medical use of mobile phones. Over half of residents thought it was safe to discuss patients over their personal, nonencrypted email.

CONCLUSIONS:

Mobile phone use among medical residents has become almost universal in academic and clinical settings. Thus, academic and health care institutions should support proper utilization of these devices in medical training and point-of-care decision making, while continuing to protect patient confidentiality.

KEYWORDS:

Saudi Arabia; WhatsApp; cell phones; communication methods; educational techniques; medical education; medical residencies; mobile phone; patient care; point of care technology; telemedicine

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