BYOD Security in the Healthcare Industry

The healthcare sector is growing dynamically in terms of benefiting from the newest technology. Healthcare providers are fully aware that using outdated methods and avoiding well-developed technological solutions is nothing but a step backward. Catching up with innovations is not the easiest nut to crack, so healthcare providers simply need to dig more to ensure they can offer the best quality services. Among many solutions, BYOD seems like a good option to have, but also a challenge to face - especially in terms of security and legal issues. Within the healthcare industry, in particular, mobile devices are solidly entrenched in clinical settings. A HIMSS Analytics study in 2017 asked healthcare workers which devices they used to access information to provide and coordinate patient care. The results were striking: tablets were cited by 80% of respondents, followed by smartphones at over 42%. So regardless of whether it’s hospital provided or BYOD, mobile technology has clearly found a place in healthcare environments. What should you know about BYOD?

What is BYOD?

With the rise in mobile technologies being a perfect solution for improving efficiency and cutting costs in all industries, it is no great surprise that many organizations encourage their employees to “bring your own devices” (BYOD) for work purposes. These devices include smartphones, tablets or laptop computers, and any other mobile gadget you can think of. Using one’s personal devices provides extra tools for workers to operate in order to perform their daily duties, at no extra cost of provision to the company. The benefits are therefore clear, but a key concern is with BYOD security risks - particularly in an organization that handles sensitive data.

BYOD in healthcare. What does it mean for the industry?

Using personal devices in the healthcare profession allows doctors, nurses and other staff members to check their emails, receive lab results and perform a whole host of other work-related tasks on their own personal devices, helping them to keep on top of a busy workload. This is an obvious advantage of BYOD, but with wider use of mobile devices comes greater privacy and security concerns. Just like how users may be worried about mobile payments security on their device with the ever-increasing use of Google Pay and Apple Pay etc., there are, of course, legitimate privacy concerns around sensitive information - which means patients’ medical records in the healthcare profession. Hospitals and other healthcare institutions, therefore, need to implement clear policies on who can bring what types of devices and which information or data is allowed to be transmitted with them. There is guidance published by ONC securing mobile devices, including BYOD. Some of the recommendations define that organizations install and enable encryption and research mobile apps before downloading them onto devices.

Due to the rising popularity of BYOD in the healthcare industry, medical-specific mobile apps that offer custom healthcare solutions are now being developed. Such apps, designed to be used on personal mobile devices, aim to deliver patient-centered software solutions so that medical professionals can provide cost-effective and high-quality care to their patients. Medical organizations that encourage BYOD, together with a strong usage policy (that provide answers to the questions such as retention of emails or passwords) and the right software can, therefore, meet the demands of improved patient experience, secure data and complying with regulations.

BYOD and HIPAA compliance

While HIPAA doesn’t require specific solutions when it comes to technical safeguards for mobile devices, HHS (Health and Human Services) does require organizations to have reasonable and appropriate security measures for standard operating procedures (more here). HIPAA stands quite clearly on security procedures and policies, training and behaviors. Some of the recommendations are implementing a passcode on all mobile devices, enabling remote wipe or file sharing through a private HIPAA compliant cloud. Moreover, encrypted messaging or having data centers’ servers that are HIPAA compliant as well as providing end-to-end encryption are also recommended.

Benefits of BYOD

Aside from the most immediately obvious benefit of allowing employees to bring their own devices to work mentioned above, namely making their work life easier at no additional cost for the business, there are many other advantages of BYOD. Many hospitals and healthcare facilities are benefitting from the Internet of Things (IoT), which is the digital system of all connected devices, objects, machines, people - each with unique identifiers and the ability to transfer data over the network without human interaction. BYOD devices are of course part of the IoT and they, therefore, offer the same benefits to healthcare, helping to improve patient experience and operational efficiency. The Internet of Medical Things allows healthcare machinery to interact together to offer innovative solutions such as automatically controlling the temperature and humidity of patients’ rooms and operating theatres. Together with BYOD, this has the benefits of reducing costs, improving the patient experience, better treatment results and improved disease management.

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