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Handheld electronic device use in patient care: the emergency department patient perspective—a cross-sectional survey
  1. Nicholas Tilbury1,
  2. Graham D Johnson1,2,
  3. Zoe Rusk1,
  4. Carol Byrne1,
  5. Maleasha Shergill1,
  6. Adam Churchman1,
  7. Andrew Tabner1
  1. 1 Emergency Department, Royal Derby Hospital, Derby, UK
  2. 2 Department of Medicine, University of Nottingham, Nottingaham, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Nicholas Tilbury, Accident and Emergency, Royal Derby Hospital, Derby DE22 3NE, UK; nicholas.tilbury{at}


Background Staff use of smartphones and tablets in the healthcare setting is increasingly prevalent, but little is known about whether this use is acceptable to patients. Staff are concerned that the use of handheld electronic devices (HEDs) may be negatively misconstrued by patients. The HED can be a valuable tool, offering the emergency clinician access to a wealth of resources; it is therefore vital that patient views are addressed during their widespread adoption into clinical practice.

Methods Patients, or those accompanying them, within the ED of the Royal Derby Hospital between April and June 2017 were asked to complete a survey consisting of 22 questions. Data collection took place to include all times of day and every day of the week. Every eligible individual within the department during a data collection period was approached.

Results A total of 438 respondents successfully completed the survey with a response rate of 92%. Only 2% of those who observed staff using HEDs during their ED visit thought that they were being used for non-clinical purposes. 339 (78%) agreed that staff should be allowed to use HEDs in the workplace. Concerns expressed by respondents included devices being used for non-clinical purposes and data security. The main suggestion by respondents was that the purpose of the HEDs should be explained to patients to avoid misinterpretation.

Conclusion Our survey shows that the majority of survey respondents felt that clinical staff should be allowed to use HEDs in the workplace and that many of the concerns raised could be addressed with adequate patient information and clear governance.

  • emergency care systems, emergency departments
  • communications
  • interpersonal

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  • Handling editor Simon Carley

  • Twitter @gdj043, @andrewtabner

  • Contributors NT drafted the manuscript, collated revisions and acted as the corresponding author. GDJ and AT planned the survey, designed the survey tool and reviewed the manuscript. CB contributed to the draft manuscript and undertook data collection. AC and MS undertook data collection. ZR analysed the data. All authors have reviewed the final manuscript and take academic responsibility for its


  • Funding The sponsor (University Hospitals of Derby and Burton NHS Foundation Trust Research and Development Department) deemed the project to be service evaluation.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient and public involvement Patients and/or the public were not involved in the design, or conduct, or reporting, or dissemination plans of this research.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Ethics approval The Caldicott Guardian has approved the release of this anonymous data.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as supplementary information. All data is from de-identified patients and is included within the manuscript. There is no additional data available. Please contact the authors for permission to re-use the data.