Security

Mobile devices boost digital transformation in healthcare, but security issues remain

More than 90% of healthcare IT managers said the adoption of mobile devices improved hospital communication and patient satisfaction.

Building a slide deck, pitch, or presentation? Here are the big takeaways:
  • 90% of hospitals are implementing or considering a mobile device initiative. — Jamf, 2018
  • Hospitals that have digitized health services are increasingly worried about the safety of patient medical records and a hospital's ability to function without these systems in case of emergency. — Jamf, 2018

Many industries are grappling with how to digitize their services, and healthcare is no different. Hospitals have turned to electronic medical records (EMR) and electronic health records (EHR) in recent years to streamline communication between doctors and improve the patient experience. Google and Windows have offered their services to hospitals, and Apple recently added a health records app to their new iOS that is compatible with more than 40 different health systems.

A new survey of 600 healthcare IT managers from Jamf conducted by Vanson Bourne found that 90% were implementing or considering a mobile device initiative, and 96% of those who already had said the plans had a noticeably positive impact on the experience of their patients.

Despite hailing mobile device initiatives as the wave of the future, most of those surveyed also expressed worry about the safety and security of the devices, questioning whether patient information was truly safe after hacks recently disrupted hospital services in the UK and other countries.

SEE: Mobile device computing policy (Tech Pro Research)

"Security breaches in general are growing exponentially in the healthcare industry. As mobile device initiatives expand in healthcare for use-cases such as patient engagement and clinical care, it is worrying that healthcare IT decision makers are becoming less confident in their mobile device management solution," Adam Mahmud, the healthcare alliance manager for Jamf, said in a press release.

The report surveyed IT managers from 200 hospitals in the US and 100 hospitals in the UK, France, Germany, and the Netherlands.

"Hospitals and clinics need a robust and secure MDM offering to support their mobility initiatives aimed at increasing caregiver efficiencies and improving the patient experience," Mahmud said in the release.

Mobile device management (MDM) systems are quickly becoming necessary for healthcare institutions to manage their complex web of devices, and make sure that they comply with all regulations on the storing and sharing of medical information.

At least 50% of those surveyed said they wanted to add mobile devices to nurse stations, administrative offices and patient rooms. Only 40% said they wanted mobile devices throughout their hospitals, and even less said they wanted them in patient waiting areas.

But of those who already did have an MDM strategy in place, 30% said they did not feel comfortable with it, and 95% said their systems could be improved. Nearly 50% cited security or cost as the main reason behind this.

In November, the UK was forced to spend an additional 20 million pounds on a "security operations center" after a WannaCry ransomware cyberattack crippled their National Health Service in May, knocking out systems at over 50 hospitals throughout England and Scotland. The attack left hospitals without IT services for weeks and prompted an overhaul of their system.

EMR security is a major concern for hospitals that are in the process of digitizing many of the processes, and one of the reasons behind the ransomware attack in the UK was a lack of basic security measures at certain hospitals, which exposed the entire system to risk. Hospitals now must worry about the security of their administrative tasks and hospital functions as well as the medical records of millions.

Despite their concerns, the survey found that most IT professionals in the healthcare industry believed that mobile device plans had made information transfer more efficient, improved communication between staff, doctors and other hospitals, increased transparency, reduced paper usage, and increased patient satisfaction.

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Image: iStockphoto/nito100

About Jonathan Greig

Jonathan Greig is a freelance journalist based in New York City. He recently returned to the United States after reporting from South Africa, Jordan, and Cambodia since 2013.

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