Health Care Without Walls: Building Infrastructure to Support Mobility
Mobile device use in the workplace is increasing in many industries, and the health care sector is no exception. More than ever, physicians and other medical staff are using smartphones and tablets to coordinate patient care and access lab reports and medical records.
This trend toward mobility has numerous benefits, but health care organizations must also consider whether their current mobile infrastructure is capable of providing the speed and security users need.
The Balance Between Security and Accessibility
Mobile device security is essential when it comes to sensitive information. For this reason, there are strict federal protocols such as the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act to ensure patient information is protected. However, the dilemma lies in how health care organizations can sufficiently protect sensitive health information in compliance with these regulations while still making data available to health care providers when and where they need it.
Providing physicians with mobile devices isn’t the primary issue. According to HIT Consultant, today’s clinicians use an average of 6.4 mobile devices per day. Furthermore, 66 percent of doctors already use iPads or other tablets for medical purposes.
The problem, then, is that health care organizations often lack the appropriate infrastructure to support the increased use of on-the-go technology for patient care. The following are the two main areas where most hospitals and clinics currently face challenges:
1. Network Speed and Reliability
Health care providers turn to their mobile devices to gain fast access to information from wherever they are, be it a hospital’s emergency room, a clinic’s exam room or their on-campus office.
Hospitals and other health care facilities must build reliable wireless infrastructures so providers can use hand-held devices to quickly access lab results, health records and other essential data. Unfortunately, the IT infrastructure in most facilities was not set up with today’s mobile needs in mind. For many, the cost and planning needed to retrofit these facilities is daunting, to say the least.
2. Security and Privacy
According to HIT Consultant, 81 percent of health care providers store personal health data on mobile devices. However, only 46 percent of hospitals currently have a security strategy in place to regulate the use of mobile devices. This discrepancy leaves patient health information at risk.
If providers and staff are going to safely access the information they need, health care facilities must install a secure, centralized IT infrastructure with sufficient authentication measures across application, desktop and server environments.
Building a Better Mobile Device Infrastructure
It’s a complex task for any health care facility to design and build mobile infrastructure that meets the reliability and security needs of patients and health care providers. To help alleviate the burden of planning and implementation, many health care organizations are turning to third-party providers to do the following:
- Evaluate security policies, such as those governing corporate and personal mobile devices, applications and data. This should also include the analysis of policies that protect data on lost or stolen devices.
- Examine mobile applications currently in use and determine which applications should be released to improve rollout procedures.
- Evaluate tools and procedures used by the organization to manage mobile devices and applications. These include device management technologies and tools, device-level controls, partitioning technologies that separate personal and work data stored on the same mobile device, configuration, encryption, password policy enforcement and virtual private network access.
- Examine the use of cellular and Wi-Fi networks to determine whether existing capacity, performance and security features will meet the needs of the organization’s eventual mobile solution.
It’s likely that the rate of mobile device adoption among health care providers will continue to grow. This growth provides many benefits, such as making data more readily available, improving workflow and efficiency and enhancing the patient experience inside the facility and beyond.
However, the rise of mobility also presents significant challenges for health care organizations that don’t have an adequate mobile infrastructure in place. As in any organization, mobile users in health care settings need both security and reliability; to that end, it is crucial that health care facilities take the necessary steps to build a mobile infrastructure that meets these needs.