Mobile Health and Secure Data

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Tuesday, 27 March 2012 17:04

With the significant increase in electronics and digital devices in the hospitals today, some may wonder how our personal records and patient information are being protected. In the last two years the number of hospitals that have converted to Electronic Health Records has more than doubled, making the percentage of people today utilizing EHR tools 35%. In the last year the number of consumers using mobile phones for health has more than doubled to 26%.

tabletThe use of mobile health devices such as mobile phones, PDAs, and other wireless devices can provide seamless access to healthcare services via the Web. Mobile devices have different ways of delivering clinical health data and health care information to practitioners, researchers, and patients. The information available on these devices is real-time and will give both the practitioner and the patient more tools and information for better decision making. With the use of mobile technology in healthcare, hospitals and healthcare offices will be able to reduce some of the cost of providing healthcare through certain applications. Doctors and practitioners will now have the ability to diagnose or prescribe medicine to a patient without actually seeing them in their office.

However, with all of that detailed patient information being available via a mobile device or application, healthcare providers have concerns regarding the security of the mobile computing devices. Some of these concerns revolve around the complexity required to securely manage the devices, the cost of the necessary security, potential for loss or theft of devices, and the growing threat of malware. It is important for healthcare organizations to understand these risks and to address them before implementing any mobile health systems.

Does this mean that hospitals and physicians should avoid mobile technology all together? Absolutely not! The HIPAA and HITECH are two of the laws and regulations that have been set in place to provide some parameters for privacy. As the healthcare technology field grows, these laws will be adjusted and expanded to complement patient protection and should be referenced when implementing any new mobile health solution.

Beyond law, there are other ways to ensure patient data is protected. It is recommended that the healthcare organizations develop a list of what they specifically need available to practitioners and patients, find a security solution that meets all security requirements, and have the funding necessary to secure the information before ever actually implementing a mobile health solution.

IT administrators in hospitals and healthcare practices should provide educational resources to help users become smarter with the use and protection of their mobile devices. It is also important to ensure that the network is secure and access is controlled from outsiders to, prevent infiltration of the network and its data.

Although the idea of having patient information available on mobile devices is worrisome to many, there are many things that hospitals and other healthcare organizations using these devices can do to ensure the protection of patient data. With secure networks, and proper procedures, mobile devices can be a great asset to the healthcare industry and help in the continued enhancement around the quality of patient care provided.

~Ashely West