Hospitals moving toward mobile, but not without concerns

Few industries in the U.S. are undergoing more upheaval than healthcare.

The transition away from fee-for-service to value-based care, changes in the healthcare insurance markets and the increasing financial burden on consumers paying ever-increasing percentages of their medical bills are redefining the patient-provider relationship.

Fortunately, technology is helping clinicians and support staff better coordinate patient care. Mobile devices and mobile unified communications platforms in particular enable doctors and nurses to collect data and collaborate with colleagues at the point of care, making it easier to share information and consult about courses of treatment with other clinicians.

But the advantages of mobile technology and data sharing come with a keen awareness of risk, according to a new survey of more than 100 hospital-based IT and healthcare professionals.

Eighty-two percent of respondents said they were concerned about their hospitals’ ability to secure “mobile devices, patient data, and the hospital’s technology infrastructure” from cyberattacks.

No wonder, given the headlines over the past year about how ransomware hackers are specifically targeting hospitals and private providers to shake down money in exchange for releasing seized patient data.

Still, these concerns aren’t preventing many hospitals from mobilizing their workers, especially nurses. Nearly four in 10 hospitals (38 percent) have spent money on smartphone-based communications software to support clinical communications, with an average deployment of 624 devices. And for good reason: As Spyglass Consulting notes, nurses “have a constant need for direct and immediate communications with colleagues and patients, as well as real-time access to relevant patient information at point of care.”

Bottom line: The benefits of mobile technology to healthcare providers and patients far outweigh the potential risks. Hospital IT professionals can optimize security (OK, theoretically) by training employees about device and data security best practices, by enabling contextual authentication, by securing network endpoints and by training employees some more.

That last part, as IT pros are ruefully aware, is rarely done.

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