SIU School of Medicine Guidelines for Medical Student Use of Electronic Devices During Patient Encounters

Background: Electronic devices (smart phones, tablets, computers, pagers etc.) allow healthcare professionals to access and communicate information quickly and efficiently and enhance care delivery in complex medical environments. At the same time, healthcare professionals must recognize the potential for these devices to become ‘disruptive technology’. Misuse of electronic devices can negatively affect the physician-patient relationship and may adversely affect patient care. In order to preserve the integrity of the medical profession, appropriate boundaries need to be established when using these devices. These guidelines are intended to assist healthcare professionals establish best practices as they relate to the use of electronic devices during the patient encounter.


  1. Silence, use vibrate mode, or turn off mobile devices during patient encounters.
  2. Explain the use of the electronic device if used in patient encounters.
    1. Use terminology to introduce the device and explain its use. For example,” Ms. Jones I am entering this information in the computer so your surgeon can review it before surgery.” Or “I am accessing your lab tests now so we can discuss the results.”
    2. When possible, use the information as a visual aid in patient health education.
    3. Keep the focus of the encounter on the patient, not the device.
  3. When appropriate, position the device so it is visible to patient and clinician.
  4. Be aware of potential contamination and clean mobile devices between patients if used.
  5. Use computers in the clinical areas for patient care purposes only.
  6. Utilize appropriate reputable electronic resources to ensure quality care.
  7. Role model the appropriate use of electronic equipment and encourage other healthcare professionals to use technology in appropriate ways to enhance patient care.
  8. Maintain confidentiality of patient information obtained or displayed on any device.

Do Not:

  1. Do not use cell phones for personal use during patient encounters.
  2. Do not take photographs of patients, visitors or cadavers unless written permission has been obtained from all parties and approved by the clinical supervisor. Do this only on secure devises, networks, and apps that adhere to privacy laws.
  3. Do not wear a Bluetooth headset in the clinical areas.
  4. Do not become distracted by mobile devices.

Additional Guidelines for use in the educational setting:

  1. Electronic devices are allowed when use is related to the instruction (i.e. note taking, interactive activities conducted by the instructor, reading about the discussion at hand) but should be operated in the silent or vibrate mode. Use of electronic devices for personal reasons is strongly discouraged in the educational setting.
  2. In the case of an urgent call, the student should quietly exit the classroom before beginning a conversation. If the student is aware he/she will be receiving an urgent call, the student should arrange to sit next to the door and exit the classroom with minimal disruption to the rest of the class.
  3. Faculty will advise students whether electronic devices are permitted during exams/quizzes.


Revised 9/21/21