Improving Clinical Communication with BlackBerry Smartphones

Medical Informatics


All residents on the General Internal Medicine (GIM) service across the Toronto General and Toronto Western Hospitals have been equipped with BlackBerry smartphones. This has significantly improved team communication, leading to time savings and efficiencies. Processes have also been built to completely change the way nurses and other interprofessional staff communicate with the teams.


The use of BlackBerrys at the University Health Network (UHN) for administrative functions had been in place for several years. With the necessary infrastructure in place, the opportunity to pilot the use of these devices for clinical communication existed. Collaborating on work to deliver critical alerts by email and accessing evidence-based decision support from the intranet, a pilot to demonstrate the impact of using BlackBerry devices to coordinate patient care ensued. We saw rapid adoption of this approach by our physicians and the use of BlackBerrys for communication are now a part of standard operations on the General Internal Medicine (GIM) service.

Expanding on this approach, we built processes to enhance nurse-physician communication and allied health staff took advantage of the efficiencies seen with email as well. The Emergency Department equipped key staff with BlackBerrys for coordinating activities that would help improve the flow of patients through our hospital system. Additional pockets of work are progressing and so the use of BlackBerrys to improve clinical communication has now become a program. The purpose is to provide structure around our research and publication activities and to help others develop effective communication processes based on our experience.