The Concerns of BYOD in Healthcare

October 25, 2014
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BYOD

Mobile devices and recent tech advances have simplified a lot of areas in our lives. Being able to communicate and access data from anywhere is fantastic, not to mention all the fun games to help pass the time in waiting rooms.

BYOD

Mobile devices and recent tech advances have simplified a lot of areas in our lives. Being able to communicate and access data from anywhere is fantastic, not to mention all the fun games to help pass the time in waiting rooms.

Along with these new devices comes their adoption in many different areas. Businesses are finding added uses for these gadgets and incorporating them in their day-to-day operations. Not surprisingly, this trend is continuing into healthcare. Physicians, nurses and hospital administrators are all taking advantage of BYOD and using their phones and tablets at work to help store important information and manage busy schedules.

While increased productivity is important, especially in hospitals when seconds can mean the difference between life or death, there are some serious side effects to allowing outside devices into this particular workspace. Data breaches in any industry are serious, but in the case of healthcare, tampering with information could result in the loss of data necessary to save someone’s life. Recent breaches and stolen data call into question the security measures of the healthcare industry. With the high importance and sensitivity of patient information, are hospitals taking the right measures to ensure it’s secure?

Unfortunately, for the most part, the answer is no. In terms of IT healthcare spending, it’s only about one-fifth the size of comparable industries. This number shows a lack of effort, and a clear need for healthcare IT security improvements. Also, if hospitals are going to incorporate BYOD into their operations, there are a number of additional issues they’ll need to consider.

Personal vs. Professional Use

The immediate concern around bringing personal devices to work, is how they’ll be used. While personal devices make users more comfortable and therefore, often more productive, the temptation exists for personal use of these devices during work hours. Especially when these devices are configured for personal lives. Personal devices may compromise professional behavior, but there are also serious security risks that come from blending the two. For example, when healthcare employees bring their computers back home and begin using them for personal use, their attention to security diminishes. They may visit unprotected sites that leave their computer vulnerable to attacks. That means the highly important work information stored on these devices will become an easier target for attackers.

Lost or Damaged Devices

In the past, when IT departments issued devices, they were responsible for backing up, tracking and replacing lost equipment. BYOD has changed that. While the device may be used at work, it still belongs to the user. So who bears responsibility in the event it’s lost or damaged? Does it matter where the devices was lost? Who is responsible for backing up information? Are these policies made clear and understood by everyone? Also, an important security issue is tracking the device and being able to wipe the device in the event it’s lost, so important information doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. Companies don’t want to be invasive and track personal usage, but the law requires that all devices containing HIPAA data be secured and able to be wiped clean.

Network Support

69 percent of hospital nurses and 80 percent of physicians are using their personal smartphones at work. So many devices entering hospitals can begin to clog and strain the network. There is a need (and for hospitals, a very significant need) for consistent and reliable connectivity. IT professionals should begin exploring the latest networking solutions in order to handle the increasing demand. Particular focus should be given to solutions that are scalable, given that this trend will only continue to rise.

It’s almost certainly safe to say that BYOD is not a passing fad. With more and more devices hitting the market, with a wider range of uses, businesses can expect that policies addressing BYOD aren’t just helpful, they’re vital. Employees need to understand appropriate BYOD security rules and requirements if they plan on using their own devices at work. IT departments should take the time to train and teach employees, so everyone knows how to protect important data.  

BYOD / shutterstock

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