There are two options for introducing smartphones and other mobile devices at your organisation:
- Providing company phones
- Using software that is designed so staff can use their personal devices
Key factors in this decision include cost and safety, as well as what you want to use the devices for.
Pros and cons of company and personal phones
Decide what you’ll need to use them for
To decide which route to take, consider how you plan on using smartphones and other devices in your organisation. There are three ‘levels’ of tasks you might use them for.
Level 1 – Communication
This is using smartphones as a communication device only, so staff can coordinate care more efficiently and collaborate with others.
Uses: centralised messaging, reducing the need for official updates, informal conversations across the organisations
What you need: a messaging app with licences for staff
How to be safe: Train staff in code of conduct and General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) compliance (for example, not sharing identifiable information about clients or photos, using strong passwords, spotting abuse or malice, reporting bad conduct, reporting data breaches if their phone is lost or stolen)
What to do: If you use devices for less official communications such as travel conditions and changes to timings, then you could ask staff to bring their own. Set up an account on a simple messaging platform and train staff to use it on their own device.
You could use:
- Microsoft Teams: a messaging platform included with Office 365, which lets you set up groups and include third party apps for tasks such as editing documents remotely
- enterprise social networks such as Slack or Yammer – these are like internal social media, but you can control groups staff are in to some extent (most have a free version or can cost roughly £10 to £20 for full functionality)
- Facebook or WhatsApp – it’s important to make sure these are used safely
Level 2 – Paperless systems
This means using mobile devices to access digital admin systems, such as annual leave systems, policy libraries and rota information (sometimes called an ‘intranet’). It replaces the need to send out rotas and forms to the whole company.
Uses: allows staff to access information and systems that are relevant to them from their device, for example, so they can book leave or see their schedule
What you need: a software that allows each person to access an account from a mobile device
How to be safe: only allow staff to access information that’s relevant to them on the system, and provide training on code of conduct and GDPR compliance.
What to do: You could allow staff to bring their own devices, as long as you provide comprehensive training and clear processes. Make sure staff understand which information is stored where while accessing the intranet, and how to keep it safe.
Alternatively, provide a company phone with the system already installed to make sure it is easy to use it correctly and safely. You could select a senior team to receive these phones and manage most of the intranet, providing only basic access to other staff.
You could use software such as:
- Microsoft SharePoint: a cloud storage system included with Office 365, it allows documents, videos and photos to be stored and organised in the way you choose – you can give different access permissions to different staff
- Interact: a similar system designed specifically for healthcare (though not specifically social care)
Level 3 – Core operations
This is using mobile devices to allow support workers, coordinators and managers to carry out everyday tasks remotely and instantly.
Uses: carry out tasks remotely such as logging in and out of visits, sending updates about a person’s conditions, and designing and reviewing care plans
What you need: care software that works safely with phones
How to be safe: you will need
- complete governance covering smartphones, including how to keep all software up to date
- contingency plans, plans for phones breaking or being lost/stolen, misused or hacked
- regular staff training on GDPR compliance, digital skills and digital safety
- contracts that outline staff responsibilities related to the devices
- to check the phone for appropriateness and safety, if allowing personal devices
What to do: in most cases, it’s better to provide company devices.
To bring the cost down, consider which staff need full access to all systems, and who needs a device at what point. Some providers keep devices fixed in safe locations, and allow care workers to sign into these with their own accounts during their shift but not take them away from these locations.
Consider how devices can connect to the internet, especially if care workers are moving around or in rural areas.
Care software usually includes safety measures and updates, but you may still need mobile device management software or a clear policy about use.
It is possible to use personal devices, but you will need sophisticated mobile device management software to create a clear separation between the care programmes and normal running of the personal device. You will need to check the staff member’s phone for appropriateness and safety, have a clear process for reporting and handling data breaches, and keep clear records.