by Mark Steedman, PhD
Our colleagues in TMT (Technology, Media & Telecommunications) recently launched the results of their Mobile Readiness for Work 2018 survey of 3,369 workers across multiple industries in the UK. They examined how workers currently use technology and identify opportunities for using mobile devices and apps to improve workers’ productivity. Included in their survey results are responses from healthcare and social workers. This week’s blog explores the responses from healthcare and social workers in more detail, including comparing the responses to some of the insights from our report Time to care: Securing a future for the hospital workforce in the UK.
The smartphone is a central part of our everyday lives – many of us can’t imagine life without one or how we ever accomplished things like meeting up with friends or booking cinema tickets before we had an iPhone in our pocket. We’re constantly checking our messages, tweeting, updating our Facebook and other online profiles, and inevitably looking for a place to charge our dead battery back to life. However, for many workers in the UK, the smartphone doesn’t play a starring role.
Figure 1 illustrates the characteristics and responses of a ‘typical member’ of the UK workforce, based on averaging the responses to the survey. A majority (62 per cent) of workers currently use a PC (desktop or laptop) for work purposes, while only 40 per cent use a mobile device (smartphone or tablet), and 21 per cent don’t use a device for work. For those that use a mobile device, the top five apps used are (percentages not shown in figure): Email (75 per cent), Calendar (66 per cent), Instant messaging apps (60 per cent), Navigation apps (57 per cent) and Camera (52 per cent). In addition, 35 per cent of respondents agree that their workplace is advanced in adopting new technologies, while 28 per cent disagree. Finally, other interesting data from the survey, not included in the figure, are that 24 per cent of workers still fill out forms on paper, and 44 per cent of workers interact with clients or customers for more than half of their work day.
Figure 1. Key findings of the Mobile Readiness for Work survey
Of the 3,369 respondents, 335 identified as healthcare and social workers, which included a variety of job descriptions, of which the top five were nurse, carer, support worker, healthcare assistant and care assistant. Figure 2, from the survey’s worker profile for healthcare and social work, examines the data from this segment of the overall dataset and shows some interesting similarities and differences when compared with the overall averages.
Figure 2. Mobile Readiness Survey responses from Healthcare and social workers
Mobile technology adoption rates for healthcare and social workers are very similar to the UK average. Fifty-nine per cent of healthcare and social workers use a PC for work, and 43 per cent use a mobile device, compared to 62 per cent and 40 per cent (as shown in Figure 1), respectively for the overall respondents. Healthcare and social workers also spend similar amounts of time compared to the average worker standing (24 per cent to 21 per cent), walking (19 per cent to 14 per cent) and traveling (9 per cent to 11 per cent), although they spend less time sitting in front of an electronic device (39 per cent to 49 per cent).
Similarly, although not shown in Figure 2, when using a smartphone, four of the top five apps (Email, Calendar, IM and Navigation) match between the two groups, with only the fifth most popular – Timesheet, highlighted by healthcare and social workers compared to Camera for the overall results – being different.
However, some key responses from healthcare and social workers differed notably from the overall average. As mentioned, on average 35 per cent of UK workers feel their workplace is advanced in adopting new technologies, but only 26 per cent of healthcare and social workers agreed. Furthermore, 40 per cent of healthcare and social workers disagreed that their workplace is advanced in adopting new technologies, which was the highest of all industries and well above the average of 28 per cent.
Similarly, when asked about adopting mobile technologies, 28 per cent of healthcare and social workers agreed that their workplace is advanced, while 38 per cent disagreed – also the highest of all industries, compared to 34 per cent that agreed and 29 per cent that disagreed for the average UK worker. Moreover, 38 per cent of healthcare and social workers still fill out forms on paper – again the highest of all industries, and much higher than the average of 24 per cent. Finally, 68 per cent of healthcare and social workers spend more than half of their day interacting with clients or customers, compared to the UK average of 44 per cent.
So what do these results mean, and should we be surprised that healthcare and social workers are lagging behind in adopting technology in their workplace?
When we compare the Mobile Readiness for Work results to those from a survey of hospital doctors and nurses that we commissioned in the summer of 2017, we find they’re remarkably similar. In our report Time to care: Securing a future for the hospital workforce in the UK, we found that only 57 per cent of respondents felt they were adequately trained in the use of technology, and only 49 per cent of respondents felt their organisation was prepared to incorporate technologies into their work (See Figure 3). While our 2017 survey comprised hospital doctors and nurses, and as such was a narrower subset of the healthcare and social care workforce than the Mobile Readiness for Work survey, these two groups of staff are in a position to improve the efficiency of both clinical and non-clinical systems and processes by adopting technology to help them work differently.
Figure 3. Hospital doctors and nurses view on individual and organisational preparedness on incorporating new technologies into work, stratified by age and gender
Our 2017 survey also examined satisfaction levels with the training and support that doctors and nurses receive from their employers to integrate new technologies into their daily work. Overall, 60 per cent of doctors were ‘very satisfied’ or ‘generally satisfied’ compared to 52 per cent for nurses (see Figure 4).
Figure 4. Satisfaction levels with the training and support hospital doctors and nurses receive from their organisation to integrate new technologies into their daily work
The similarities in the results from these two surveys are also corroborated by what we see in the press and other research. For example, the NHS is the world’s largest purchaser of fax machines, with at least 9,000 fax machines still used across the NHS.1 Similarly, a September 2017 report by CommonTime found that nearly 130,000 pagers are still in use by the NHS, accounting for more than one in 10 of all the world’s pagers and costing an annual £6.6 million. The report also estimated that replacing these pagers with mobile software could save the NHS £2.7 million per year.2
Many public figures have already supported calls to replace antiquated equipment and digitally transform the NHS. Previous Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt supported a call for the NHS to provide doctors and nurses a “data-compliant healthcare messaging service” to improve communication and discourage the use of commercial apps that don’t meet NHS standards.3 More recently, new Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s maiden speech called for the NHS to use technology as a catalyst to save time and money, and to improve patient safety, which we explored in more detail in a previous blog.
Moving forward, it is clear that healthcare and social workers could benefit from improved access to mobile and other digital technologies in the workplace. However, the technological transformation of the NHS will rely on innovations that combine simplicity, stability and ease of use with the security and interoperability required in a clinical setting. Furthermore, the NHS will need to support its workers to integrate mobile and other new technologies into their daily work to avoid falling further behind the times.
About the research
The Mobile Readiness for Work survey was conducted by Opinium Research on behalf of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited. Fieldwork occurred between May and June 2018 among 3,369 working age adults, providing the first comprehensive map of the state of mobile readiness among the UK’s workforce. The results are weighted to the working population data on age, gender, sector, industry and region.