Smartphones let surgeons know WhatsApp: an analysis of communication in emergency surgical teams

Published:October 20, 2014DOI:



      Outdated communication technologies in healthcare can place patient safety at risk. This study aimed to evaluate implementation of the WhatsApp messaging service within emergency surgical teams.


      A prospective mixed-methods study was conducted in a London hospital. All emergency surgery team members (n = 40) used WhatsApp for communication for 19 weeks. The initiator and receiver of communication were compared for response times and communication types. Safety events were reported using direct quotations.


      More than 1,100 hours of communication pertaining to 636 patients were recorded, generating 1,495 communication events. The attending initiated the most instruction-giving communication, whereas interns asked the most clinical questions (P < .001). The resident was the speediest responder to communication compared to the intern and attending (P < .001). The participants felt that WhatsApp helped flatten the hierarchy within the team.


      WhatsApp represents a safe, efficient communication technology. This study lays the foundations for quality improvement innovations delivered over smartphones.


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