The Dangers and Advantages of using WhatsApp for Technical Support

Technical support starts with one expert, whether it’s online, in person or on paper. When maintaining medical equipment, technical support is very crucial, especially when a problem is detected. In this article we discuss the communication method between medical device technicians from different parts of the world. Often the only and easiest way for them to communicate and give technical support is through a simple app – WhatsApp. This of course come with many advantages as well as disadvantages. But for now, it is a good solution for these technicians to support one another with technical based issues and questions.

Development of Communication between Technicians

A few technical managers in Latin America decided on a meeting with the idea to get every technician on the same page regarding policies and procedures that had to be followed. A WhatsApp group was started to coordinate the event during the meetings. The reason WhatsApp was chosen as a communication method is because most people have access to WhatsApp and this is the quickest way to get a response between experts and technicians. After creating the group, we soon came to the realisation that we had built a community with all the key persons for technical service in South America.

Thereafter, the technical managers added the technicians with the most experience in their countries to the group. This enabled the expert technicians to communicate with each other and exchange information rapidly.

Soon we were faced with the problem that old outdated information was shared in the group. For this reason, everyone in the group had to be trained to always refer to the latest, original documentation which the experts would usually provide. In a group like this, the expert should always coordinate well to make sure things don’t get out of hand and that the information exchanged is up to date and legitimate. And because this type of technical support is connected to the medical device law, it is extremely important that all the people that join this type of group are qualified, certified and experienced technicians. The medical device law is a regulation which states that all medical devices should undergo an assessment to prove that they fulfil to all legal requirements which ensures that these devices are safe to use and can accomplish which it is intended to.[1]

Language Barriers

All the technicians in the WhatsApp group are from many different countries and backgrounds. This of course makes the communication on one single group quite difficult. The technicians in the group from Latin America spoke Spanish and the all the documentation was in English. Fortunately, two people in the group could speak English which helped a lot with translation. The same language barriers were found in the western African group where most people spoke French which made the English documentation hard to understand.

Official Communication Method

The training on how to use the WhatsApp group also included that the technicians should take the correct steps when communicating. For example, if there is a problem and there was no solution found in the group, a complaint has to opened. It is also very important that the medical device law is not broken at any point.

Because of the different time zones between Europe, Latin America and western Africa, a self-learning effect developed. Since the response from Europe took almost a day to reach the technicians in South America or western Africa, they often solved the problem the problem themselves before the expert reached out to them. This formed a specific communication method between all those in the group.

Advantages and Disadvantages of WhatsApp as a Communication Method

With this type of communication method comes many advantaged as well as disadvantages.

Advantages

  • Easy to build a community
  • Exchange of knowledge amongst peers
  • Self-learning effect
  • Team-building effect
  • Rapid response times
  • International possibilities

Dangers

  • Not official communication methods
  • Using unofficial documentation
  • Needs to be supervised by an expert
  • No tracking system
  • No record keeping
  • Leaking of sensitive information

 

Keywords: WhatsApp, Medical Device Law, Technical Support

[1] European Medicines Agency, Human regulatory. Retrievable:  https://www.ema.europa.eu/en/human-regulatory/overview/medical-devices

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