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Healthcare Organizations Relying on Passive Mobile Device Security

Some healthcare organizations rely on passive mobile device security measures such as policy and education, which could leave them vulnerable to attack.

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Source: Thinkstock

By Fred Donovan

- Half of healthcare organizations rely on passive mobile device security measures such as policy and education, which could leave them vulnerable to attack, according to an annual survey of more than 300 healthcare organizations by healthcare communications provider Spok.

Around 44 percent of respondents rely on a secure wireless corporate network and 28 percent rely on application management and app containerization for their mobile device security program.

Even though the survey found a 19 percent increase in security team involvement in mobile device policy enforcement from last year, only 39 percent of respondents indicated mobile policies are enforced extremely well or consistently.

Around 57 percent of respondents said they had a mobile strategy, down from 65 percent in last year’s survey. For those with a mobile strategy in place, most have had a strategy for one to three years; 21 percent of respondents had a mobile strategy in place for more than five years.

The most popular reason for updating a mobile strategy was to meet the needs of end users (39 percent), followed by addressing changes in clinical workflows (28 percent).

Mobile management and security led the list of information included in these mobile strategies, followed by mobile device selection, integration with the EHR, and mobile and wireless infrastructure assessment.

Nearly half of participants included clinical workflow evaluation in their mobile strategies, which Spok sees as evidence that physicians, nurses, and others in direct patient care roles are using mobile policies to define the types of workflows that are managed on mobile devices.

“Organizations continue to support a variety of devices, underscoring the importance of having a healthcare communication platform … that can message to all of them effectively,” said Spok CEO Vincent D. Kelly.

Interestingly, the survey found a decrease from last year in the number of organization using secure texting. Around 41 percent of respondents said they used secure texting, marking a four-year low. Around one-third (32%) of respondents said they were evaluating the use of secure texting.

These results contrast with a recent Black Book Market Research survey that found secure texting was on the rise and becoming the first choice to send healthcare information securely. According to the survey, 85 percent of hospitals and 83 percent of physician practices were using secure communication platforms between care teams, patients, and families.

“Organizations are adopting secure text messaging platforms because texts are convenient,” said Black Book Market Research President Doug Brown.

According to the Spok survey, smartphones are the most commonly used communication tool employed at 74 percent of facilities. Wi-Fi phones (69%), onsite pagers (56%), tablets (54%), and wide-area pagers (45%) are also popular.

“We are pleased to see hospitals making progress in dealing with their mobile device challenges across the board. Over the past two years, respondents have improved areas such as compliance, coverage, and data security, but there is still work to be done,” observed Spok President Hemant Goel.

The survey found improvements across the board in how hospitals were addressing challenges with mobile device usage between 2016 and 2018.

Although down slightly from 2016, Wi-Fi coverage remained the most common challenge. Cellular coverage was second, and in a tie for third place were data security and compliance policies. Although hospitals were making headway in these areas, the results indicated to Spok that there is still a long way to go in addressing these issues.

For 2018, Spok added an option about adoption rates/user acceptance as these are trouble spots for hospitals. Twenty-eight percent of respondents noted this as a challenge, which could affect their ability to enforce mobile policies effectively.

“Health systems must make the very real connection between achieving their overarching corporate goals and the way staff communicate every second of every day to treat patients. This spans everything from enforcing security protocols to identifying appropriate clinical workflows for mobile solutions to establishing the communication channels that will support disaster response,” Spok concluded.

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