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54% of Orgs See Health IT Infrastructure as Top Mobility Test

A recent healthcare IT survey expressed health IT infrastructure challenges when implementing enterprise mobility and BYOD solutions.

By Elizabeth O'Dowd

Fifty-four percent of healthcare organizations named health IT infrastructure as their top challenge when deploying employee mobile device usage, according to a recent survey released by Spok Holdings.

BYOD healthcare survey

Fifty-eight percent of healthcare organizations are currently allowing some form of bring-your-own-device (BYOD). BYOD adoption rates have decreased over the past two years, but the results may be deceiving.

Spok’s survey included two additional responses this year beyond yes or no. Five percent of organizations stated they were planning some sort of BYOD adoption, while 18 percent claimed they did not know.

As BYOD becomes a more popular, security and health IT infrastructure concerns are also growing.

“In last year’s survey, data security was cited as the primary challenge for 62 percent of the hospitals that supported BYOD environments; it was also cited by 81 percent of respondents as the primary reason for not allowing BYOD,” Spok analysts write. “With the rise in fines for data breaches, increasing frequency of ransomware hacks, and stepped up efforts to investigate data breaches by the Office of Civil Rights at the Department of Health and Human Services, it is not surprising that hospitals are reluctant to participate in the BYOD movement.”

Security is always a concern for BYOD deployment, but the strains BYOD puts on IT infrastructure need to be considered just as seriously. Demands on network bandwidth as well as server access can potentially strain an organization’s infrastructure.

Implementing BYOD does not necessarily eliminate the need for organization owned hardware for healthcare professionals, it simply allows more mobility for quicker access to data. BYOD policies increase the number of devices accessing the network, which strains the wireless network.

Organizations need to be prepared for an influx of devices at risk of the network bandwidth becoming congested. Wireless networks may need to be upgraded to accommodate the growth in traffic. Bandwidth strain will likely ease up in the future because of consolidating features on mobile devices, smartphones in particular. Results showed the only mobile device with decreased support is tablets, possibly due to the fact that recent smartphone models serve the same purpose as tablets. Eliminating or phasing out support of redundant devices cuts down on the number of devices per user, freeing up bandwidth.

Another IT infrastructure factor to concede when considering BYOD for a healthcare organization is data storage. Knowing who is using their own device to access the servers and what information they are accessing is telling when it comes to upgrading server storage and access.

According to the survey, the top four healthcare staff allowed to participate in BYOD programs are physicians (89%), administrators (75%), IT staff (66%), and nurses (50%).

Mobile users are accessing secure data including electronic health records (62%), directory lookup (62%), schedules (57%), and, clinical system alerts (50%). All of this information is secure and needs to be stored and accessed properly.

Mobile access on devices not owned or deployed by a healthcare organization access the network differently and require unique access authentication. Access restrictions at the storage level will protect patient data when it is accessed remotely and by a device not considered secure.

Enterprise mobility management solutions and embracing elements of virtualization at the storage level separates employee’s personal information from secure healthcare data, giving an extra layer of security beyond standard identity and access management and firewalls.

Spok’s research found that BYOD is not steadily increasing year over year like the rate of adoption of other health IT infrastructure technologies. BYOD presents certain challenges that are not consistent with other technologies, like billing conflicts, privacy of employees, and endpoint security.

The survey concluded that while BYOD adoption in healthcare did decrease this year, organizations are still planning on deploying some form of BYOD program in the near future.

“Mobile strategy plans and use cases continue to grow, with an emphasis on smartphones and apps. However, there is a large gap in infrastructure to support the strategy and devices, including wireless network coverage and EMM solutions. This gap will be critical for hospitals to address in an effort to mitigate security risks and enhance communications,” the research states.

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