Smartphone Clinical Communication Amongst Irish Dental Professionals
Objectives: Effective communication between clinicians is essential in health care settings including Dentistry. Smartphone technology is ubiquitous in modern society and clinical practice due to its cost effective and efficient communication functionality. The purpose of this study was to determine the prevalence of smartphone ownership and clinical communication in the Irish Dental Profession, trends in usage and Digital Professionalism.
Methods: A Google form questionnaire was developed and distributed in 2020 to the dental profession via email (196 dental staff & 13 post graduate students at UCC), via letter (500 Irish Dental Council members through a letter with a URL to the still active questionnaire (https://forms.gle/PvAUpKiScRsictAm9) and during a webinar given to the Irish Dental Association (more respondents welcome).
Results: A total of 98 responses were received with 96 (98%) of respondents confirming they owned a smartphone (n=64% Apple; n=31% Android; n=3% Other). Respondents reported the use of SMS/iMessage (n=49; 50%) or App based messaging (e.g. WhatsApp n=51; 52%) to communicate patient related clinical information to colleagues. Many respondents (n=49; 50%) perceived inadequate personal skills in 'Digital Professionalism'. Patient-related clinical information was stored on the smartphones of n=50 (51%) respondents with n=30 (31%) having data streaming to another device and n=51 (52%) having data streaming to cloud-based services. A large number of respondents n=92 (94%) perceived the need for support to clean/wipe their smartphone before trading in/up their device.
Conclusions: Smartphone technology is highly prevalent among Irish dentists with many (approx. 50%) using their device to communicate patient related clinical information (including photographs) without appropriate GDPR compliance. The security of the information is concerning, especially as these patient data may (inadvertently) be streamed to other devices or stored insecurely on remote cloud-based servers. Dentists require urgent signposting to secure digital solutions and training on Digital Professionalism.