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Mobile Health’s Growing Pains

28 Jan 2016 by Christine Kern

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) comes with many benefits for the healthcare industry. In a survey conducted by Citrix, 35% of companies reported reduced time and cost of device management, in addition to reduced onboarding and training costs (since people use devices with which they’re familiar) as their primary reason for choosing to adopt BYOD. And as much as 40% of physicians believe utilizing digital technologies to keep track of and communicate with patients will lead to better health outcomes (Manhattan Research’s Taking the Pulse U.S. 2014 study).

Despite the benefits, we have to look at BYOD detriments. For instance, of 19 U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved mobile health apps tested for security, 84% didn’t adequately address application code tampering and reverse-engineering, according to a new report published by security vendor Arxan.

This is where IT managers must take a balanced approach to the mobile trend that’s here to stay. They must meet the needs of their users while ensuring mobile platforms and BYOD programs are implemented in compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

Mobility’s pervasive progress

However, the impact of mobility is no longer confined to the devices themselves and is now also affecting the wider computing infrastructure. As Gartner’s “Predicts 2016: Mobile and Wireless” report published Oct. 13, 2015 explains, “mobility is becoming more invisible as it pushes its challenges into every traditional area of IT, forcing those areas to become more robust. It is important that IT continually use mobility as the ultimate test of the viability and completeness of all strategies that become part of any IT or vendor's overall plans.”

“Probably the most notable change in our line of business is that we’re finally starting to see healthcare systems begin to look at the mobile platform as a true workflow tool,” said Paul McRae, director of healthcare solutions at AirWatch by VMware.

Mobility allows healthcare providers to instantly access important information, whether it’s a clinician at the point of care double-checking evidence-based clinical guidelines or checking a patient's labs on a different floor via the electronic health record (EHR). Clinicians are increasing the rate at which they are adopting mHealth tools and apps, and more than half of them (53%) now use a tablet to access EHRs, take notes or send e-prescriptions. And nearly half (48%) use smartphones to search for information.

Mobility’s HIPAA health

This increased use of mHealth platforms increases the HIPAA security risks for healthcare organizations that must remain compliant or face stiff penalties. According to a KLAS survey, the use of personal mobile devices in healthcare settings isproviders' second biggest concern with data security. The use of mobile devices increases security risks, calling into question issues surrounding encryption, authorized access and mobile security.

In fact, nearly 60% of pediatric hospitalists sent or received work-related text messages on their personal smartphones, according to a study in Telemedicine and e-Health, while 30% even indicated receiving personal health information in a text message. Despite the proliferation of protected health data being transmitted via personal devices, just 11% said their institutions offer encryption software for text messaging.

Mobility’s maturity phase

The Gartner “Predicts 2016: Mobile and Wireless” report published Oct. 13, 2015 states, “As mobility moves into its maturity phase, its impact becomes less self-contained under the banner of mobility, and instead spreads across the computing infrastructure. Security, manageability and productivity are the key themes presented in” Gartner’s report.

Their predictions support the concept that “mobility is becoming more invisible as it pushes its challenges into every traditional area of IT, forcing those areas to become more robust. It is important that IT continually use mobility as the ultimate test of the viability and completeness of all strategies that become part of any IT or vendor's overall plans.”

This is particularly important for healthcare organizations that must pay particularly close attention to the security of patient protected health information to remain HIPAA compliant.

To learn more about managing mobility in your healthcare organization, get the Gartner “Predicts 2016: Mobile and Wireless” report.