Healthcare Information Security

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Despite security risks, BYOD helps nurses be more productive

By Jennifer Bresnick

- It may be a huge HIPAA headache, but nurses who take advantage of BYOD policies report feeling more comfortable with their own devices and are more productive when it comes to their daily tasks.  Personal mobile devices help smooth a nurse’s workflow, says Judith Church, DHA, MSN, faculty member in the health care and health care informatics programs at American Sentinel University, and can supplement hospital communications while defraying the cost to the organization itself.

“RNs have greater familiarity with their own devices and the more familiar they are, the greater the tendency there is for nurses to optimize the use of the device to its fullest capacity for improved patient care,” Church says.  Having a mobile device in hand allows nurses to access reference materials at the point of care and quickly communicate with colleagues without having to learn a new operating system or suite of apps.

Nurses are typically heavy mobile users because they often have to respond to a variety of alerts, encompassing everything from helping a patient use the restroom to routine medication administration to life-threatening emergencies.  Routing these alerts straight to a nurse’s cell phone ensures the message is seen in a timely manner.  With staff becoming increasingly mobile, and call systems like overhead paging or lights flashing at the nursing station becoming obsolete, BYOD is a trend that will continue to become more and more popular among clinicians.

However, the variety of devices available does pose a problem for standardization and security.  Organizations might need to ensure that apps and mobile EHR systems work across all major platforms, and that every type of device is similarly secure.  “The drawback to BYOD in nursing is that it contributes to a non-standardization of a work arena’s equipment,” acknowledges Church. “Nurses should realize that IT policies exist for a reason to protect data integrity and security and should adhere to them at all times when participating in a BYOD initiative.”

Providing robust education on personal and corporate email policies and the perils of losing a device with identifiable patient information is a key part of a successful BYOD initiative, and education should be repeated at regular intervals to provide staff with a refresher.  “Maybe on a quarterly basis, roll out the program again, remind people what the protocols are that they should be following,” suggests Lynda Martel, Executive Director of Government and Enterprise Business Relations at DriveSavers Data Recovery.  “Reward people for improving procedures in their departments but making it a visible part of the organization so that everybody knows that the company takes security very seriously so they should, too.”

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