'Bring Your Own Device' Movement Comes to Healthcare

Four reasons to secure your organization's mobile workspace

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Mobile workers are a tremendous asset to healthcare organizations. Their ability to contribute from nearly any location can facilitate more efficient patient care, help hold down costs, and improve productivity. These workers include administrative employees logging on from home, onsite contractors, health practitioners assigned to multiple departments or facilities, field representatives and support staff working across a hospital campus or health system. Any of these employees could potentially carry electronic medical records (EMRs) on mobile devices in order to provide better patient care, or to simply get work done.

A May 2013 report by HIMSS Analytics, "Healthcare Provider Network Solutions, Barriers and Challenges," notes that as mobile technology spreads, health workers expect to be able to use their own tablets, smartphones and laptop computers to conduct business. Indeed, organizations have no choice but to grapple with the BYOD trend because they simply cannot adequately control workers' use of their own technology.

Mobile technology has brought clear benefits to healthcare organizations, but mobile workers also introduce risk. When they use their own devices, they may carry with them information about patients or people participating in clinical trials, proprietary R&D data, or the healthcare organization's own applications and databases. Carrying unencrypted data on unsecured devices could inadvertently compromise their organizations' ability to meet strict data security mandates and regulations such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) security requirements for electronic health records (EHRs), and evolving ASTM standards for medical device interoperability.

Still, many IT leaders recognize the opportunity to seize the benefits and lower overall technology costs, if they can only maintain a degree of control over the organization's data. To that end, healthcare organizations that want to embrace a secure BYOD strategy are turning to a new approach to securing those devices. Called secure mobile workspaces, the technology takes advantage of new capabilities such as Microsoft's Windows To Go-an enterprise feature of Windows 8-to provide users with a fully functional version of their desktop that can quickly be booted directly from an encrypted USB drive and is in compliance with all regulations around safeguarding patient information. The following are four reasons why security-conscious healthcare organizations are looking to take full advantage of the trend toward mobility by deploying secure mobile workspaces:

1. Help meet the Affordable Care Act Requirement of Lowering Administrative Costs
The Affordable Care Act is driving healthcare organizations to maximize investment in patient care and minimize administrative expenses. It is estimated that the cost to deploy a secure mobile workspace using Windows To Go is 80 to 90 percent less than the cost to deploy an IT managed, provisioned and secured laptop. This cost savings can help healthcare organizations respond directly to the Affordable Care Act requirements.

2. Enable Employers to Gain Control of, and Reap the Benefits of, the BYOD Trend
Ten years ago, if an organization wanted the mobility and accessibility benefits of employees using cell phones, management had to incur the cost of providing those phones. Today, most employees own mobile phones, and employers benefit from the spread of that technology without needing to assume all of the associated costs or administrative burden of purchasing and managing those devices. In a similar manner, organizations are now starting to take advantage of the fact that most employees own laptop computers. IT managers know that employees who have computers at home would often like to use them for work. In fact, Gartner predicts that by 2016 half of all businesses will require employees to use their own computers. The trick is, IT staff at healthcare organizations needs to put in place technology that provides adequate data security.

A secure mobile workspace accomplishes this goal and is one of the most cost effective ways to create a secure laptop. Because the USB workspace is completely separate from the host PC's hard drive, both the PC and the workspace are protected.

3. Provide Secure Access for Workers who Continuously Move Within the Hospital
Many physicians, nurses and other healthcare workers are continuously mobile within the walls of hospitals and medical centers as they move among exam rooms or patients' bedsides. These staffers are demanding instant access to patient and treatment information. In fact, a recent report from Spyglass Consulting Group found that 69 percent of surveyed hospital nurses use smartphones for personal and clinical communications while on the job.

Working from a USB device plugged into a PC at any location in the hospital can enable remote patient monitoring, for example, making it possible for staff to virtually deliver care in multiple places at the same time. Staffers understand that mobile access can make it easier, better and more efficient to get the data they need anytime and anywhere, which ultimately improves the quality of care. It is management's job to provide them with a solution to do it.

4. Reporting on Control and Use of Data
In January 2013, the Department of Health & Human Services announced a new rule designed to enhance patient privacy protections, provide individuals with new rights to their health information and strengthen the government's ability to enforce the law. HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules previously focused on healthcare providers, health plans and other entities that process health insurance claims. The changes announced in January expanded many of the requirements to business associates of these entities that receive protected health information, such as contractors and subcontractors. Penalties were also increased for non-compliance with a maximum penalty of $1.5 million per violation.

Due to these strict regulations governing the healthcare industry, as well as serious ethical and financial repercussions, organizations must be able to report on their control and use of data. If a breach occurs, the organization must be able to identify and resolve the leak. A secure mobile workspace empowers IT to implement policy control, reporting, password reset and remote disabling or decommissioning of a device via a central dashboard should the need arise.

According to reports by Health Management Technology, 85 percent of hospitals allow their employees to bring and use their personal devices within the facility. The same article also notes that 70 percent of physicians and IT professionals view patient data on their mobile devices. Healthcare organizations are not alone in dealing with the issue of BYOD, but there are many things that make it particularly difficult for them, such as HIPAA regulations, the combination of internal and external worker mobility, and the need to lower administrative costs due to the Affordable Care Act. However, healthcare organizations have shown a willingness to take on this challenge in order to better serve patients while remaining in compliance with regulations. A secure mobile workspace with Windows To Go allows these organizations to embrace the BYOD trend and enhance the quality of patient care, all while safeguarding sensitive data.

Gary Gerber is the senior product marketing manager, Imation.

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