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Involving nurses in mHealth strategy may boost security

By Patrick Ouellette

- When considering how clinical and innovation requirements fit into their mobile strategy, some organizations don’t consider nurses’ needs as well. Spyglass Consulting Group recently released “Point of Care Communications for Nursing 2014,” a report that used 100 interviews to detail how workflow inefficiencies, usage models for mobile devices and solutions, and mobile communication barriers affect nurses. These gaps in mHealth coverage can impact security for some organizations.

Nurses, according to the report, make up the single largest healthcare professional group in the United States with 2.9 million registered members. However, Spyglass reports that organizations haven’t been as willing to invest in proper communication devices for nurses, so they’ve been using their own smart phones while not following organizations’ mobile policies. In fact, 67 percent of hospitals said staff nurses are using their own devices to as part of clinical communications and workflow.

But no mobile strategy discussion is complete without referencing the mHealth innate privacy and security risks. The report stated that hospital IT staffs believe that these BYOD smartphone usages create security risk when the organizations don’t have control of the devices. According to the report, 88 percent of hospitals interviewed expressed concerns about the HIPAA Omnibus Rule and the risk of unprotected mobile devices on the hospital’s network. These respondents said the devices going onto the network may introduce malicious attacks, malware and viruses.

The issue here, from a privacy and security standpoint, is that nurses need to securely and efficiently communicate with physicians as much as physicians need to communicate with each other. Scott Raymond, Executive Director, Information Services at Orange Coast Memorial, a 220 bed community hospital, recently raised this same point in an interview with HealthITSecurity.com. “In general, being able to get ahold of clinicians has always been very difficult, even for on-site attending physicians,” he said. “Keeping a rolodex is inefficient, you don’t even know if it’s the right number and most nurses only have about 5 minutes before they need an answer from the doctor.”

Regardless of which solution an organization picks to expand its mHealth strategy to nurses, this report made it clear that the need is there for providers. Even though investments in mHealth technology for nurses to this point have been limited, according to the report, 51 percent of respondents plan to invest or evaluate enterprise-class smartphone solutions over next 18 months. “Despite advancements in mobile devices and unified communications, hospital IT has underinvested in technologies and processes to support nurses at point of care,” Gregg Malkary, managing director of Spyglass Consulting, said in a statement, according to eWeek. “Nearly 42 percent of hospitals interviewed are still reliant on pagers, noisy overhead paging systems and landline phones for communications and care coordination.”

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