HITInfrastructure

Networking News

Healthcare Mobility Device Diversity Key Challenge

Survey calls attention to healthcare mobility device diversity as mobile device management challenge.

Source: Thinkstock

- Spok Holdings released the second part of its annual healthcare mobility survey, determining that organizations need their health IT infrastructure to support a variety of mobile devices.

The survey polled over 300 U.S. healthcare professionals about their mobile health policies, communication infrastructure, and plans for future mobile support and strategies.

The survey found that organizations are generally making progress identifying and addressing IT infrastructure gaps to support all mobile devices.

Forty-five percent of respondents said that Wi-Fi coverage is a challenge for mobile device users, and 38 percent said cellular coverage was problematic. However, 31 percent said that data security was a challenge which is down from 43 percent last year.

“Though there is still a lot of room for improvement, the responses this year demonstrate that hospitals are taking action and making progress addressing these important issues,” Spok President Hemant Goel said in a statement.

The survey found that bring-your-own-device (BYOD) deployments required organizations to adjust their mobile strategies to accommodate a variety of devices. Different mobile devices running different operating systems have varying requirements when it comes to mobile device management.

The survey noted that hospital staff carry many different mobile devices. Smartphones make up 77 percent of mobile device usage. Other devices needing support include tablets, laptops, wearables, and pagers.

The survey respondents identified enhancing patient care team collaboration, and using mobile strategies to simplify technology and bring uniformity across hospital systems as the biggest mobile communications opportunities.

Enterprise mobility management challenges health IT as organizations continue to adopt different mobile devices to improve workflow. Employees typically don’t want to carry more than one device, which is why many organizations implement BYOD strategies.

BYOD strategies are necessary for modern infrastructure because they prevent employees from using shadow IT to gain access to clinical data.

Kirstin Simonson, 2nd VP at Travelers Global Technology, told HITInfrastructure.com that shadow IT is any app or device being used to access clinical data that is not approved by IT.

“People might be very surprised at how prevalent shadow IT is in healthcare,” Simonson said. “If we went into any healthcare organization and really did a deep dive not only into employees but also into what IT is doing to make their jobs more efficient, we might be surprised how much unauthorized shadow IT there is.”

However, the challenge with BYOD strategies is that organizations need to fully support and protect different operating systems.

The latest Android and iOS OSes need to be supported as well as OSX and Windows. Organizations also need to consider users who have not updated to the latest version of their OS, and decide how to support dated OSes like Window 8 and Windows 8.1.

Outdated OSes present security risks as unsupported apps and patches can be hijacked and infect the network.

Organizations need to outline which OSes they will support for BYOD and which are too outdated to be safe for use. Organizations can implement requirements that require an employee to upgrade his or her device to the latest OS to use that device for work. This helps organizations minimize the amount of effort and resources needed to cover all OSes.

Healthcare organizations need to instill all the security protocols they can to protect a wide variety of mobile devices, but the number one defense against cybersecurity threats is employee education.

“I think if the training is there and if employees really understand at a much deeper level how their behavior can have a negative impact on the organization,” Simonson continued. “That’s where you would see corrective actions starting to take place.”

Educating employees on how to identify a cyber-attack and ensuring they understand the importance in updating apps and OSes is the first and most effective defense against healthcare data breaches.