Smartphone use during inpatient attending rounds: prevalence, patterns and potential for distraction

J Hosp Med. 2012 Oct;7(8):595-9. doi: 10.1002/jhm.1950. Epub 2012 Jun 28.


Background: While there are numerous benefits of smartphone use for physicians, little is known about the negative effects of using these devices in the context of patient care.

Objective: To assess resident and faculty smartphone use during inpatient attending rounds and its potential as a source of distraction during transfer of clinical information.

Design: Cross-sectional survey.

Setting: University-affiliated public teaching hospital.

Participants: All housestaff and inpatient faculty in the departments of Medicine and Pediatrics.

Methods: Participants were asked about smartphone ownership, usage patterns during attending rounds, and whether team members had ever missed important data during rounds due to distraction from smartphones. Attendings were asked whether policies should be established for smartphone use during rounds.

Results: The overall response rate was 73%. Device ownership was prevalent (89% residents, 98% faculty), as was use of smartphones during inpatient rounds (57% residents, 28% attendings). According to self-reports, smartphones were used during rounds for patient care (85% residents, 48% faculty), reading/responding to personal texts/e-mails (37% residents, 12% faculty), and other non-patient care uses (15% residents, 0% faculty). Nineteen percent of residents and 12% of attendings believed they had missed important information because of distraction from smartphones. Residents and faculty agreed that smartphones "can be a serious distraction during attending rounds," and nearly 80% of faculty believed that smartphone policies should be established.

Conclusions: Smartphone use during attending rounds is prevalent and can distract users during important information transfer. Attendings strongly favored the institution of formal policies governing appropriate smartphone use during inpatient rounds.

MeSH terms

  • Attention
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Cell Phone*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Faculty, Medical
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Hospitals, Teaching*
  • Humans
  • Inpatients*
  • Internship and Residency / statistics & numerical data*
  • New York
  • Organizational Policy
  • Patient Care / psychology
  • Patient Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Safety / statistics & numerical data*