Not surprisingly, the use of Smartphones and other mobile devices has taken the health IT industry by storm. According to a December 2011 study by the Ponemon Institute, 81% of doctors use a Smartphone to access patient information; that’s up from 72% in 2010. The increased use of mobile devices in health care settings is not surprising; physicians’ ability to access a patient’s electronic health records (EHR) quickly and easily is convenient and in some cases, may be life-saving. But it’s not without problems.
Risk of Patient Data Breaches Due to Medical Device Usage
According to the Ponemon study, patient data breaches have risen along with the increased use of mobile devices. Ninety-six percent of organizations surveyed in the study report having had a least one data breach in the past two years.
But while the increased patient data breaches are disturbing, are they really that surprising? After all, technology is introduced and accepted at an alarmingly fast rate, often before much thought has been given to securing that technology. Yet, it’s precisely because technology continues to evolve and become ever-more sophisticated, that organizations must ensure their health IT operations adapt and maintain the security of those devices.
Health IT Professionals Can Prevent Patient Data Breaches
The first line of defense in preventing patient data breaches is to improve the health care organization’s level of cyber security to make sure that all mobile devices are properly encrypted.
Another option is to hire an outside mobile device management company to provide security for devices that would otherwise be considered unsecure. Some hospitals have gone so far as to disallow the use of any mobile device if it can’t be secured on their system.
Maintaining the security of PHI is such a huge issue that the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology is working to compile feedback on how health care professionals can protect patient data while using mobile devices. The organization will hold a public roundtable to hear best practices this spring.