BYOD, Security Healthcare IT Executives Top Concerns

Posted on by Frank J. Rosello

The rising tide of smartphones and other mobile computing devices and their impact on healthcare information network security were the key concerns raised by healthcare IT executives in a focus group session and a subsequent report by HIMSS Analytics.

The nine-page report, “Healthcare Provider Network Solutions, Barriers and Challenges,” said that healthcare workers already are bringing their own mobile devices into the workplace and expecting to use them there, a trend that is both unstoppable and problematic, the leaders said.

The report summarizes a one-hour focus group meeting with seven hospital health IT leaders during the HIMSS annual convention in March in New Orleans. Cable services provider Comcast contributed support for the research.

“We found that IT network priorities for all participating hospital systems were consistently focused around accommodating greater mobile and wireless connectivity to their networks,” said Jennifer Horowitz, senior director of research for HIMSS Analytics , an arm of Chicago-based Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, in a news release. “Simultaneously, the IT leaders were also concerned with ensuring the security of patient data, particularly as they relate to the challenges associated with Bring Your Own Device environments.”

According to several participants, lack of IT control with BYOD is a major concern.

“Data is exchanged insecurely whether you like it or not,” regardless of the controls an organization puts in place, one participant said. Several said “users at their organization have found ways to ‘jail break’ the security controls put in place.”

Health information exchange is another challenge, most prominently in that HIEs “have not ‘taken off.’”

The participants’ hospitals had a combination of wired and wireless networks with which they are “fairly pleased” in that they are stable and “applications work effectively,” the report said. However, those networks were “at a tipping point” due to exponential growth of wireless devices.

“With the installation of wireless networks, employees have increased access to Web-based tools to complete their day-to-day tasks,” it said. “The challenge is regulating access to the Web so that employees are not accessing the Internet for personal reasons.”

Several participants said individuals in their organizations access Amazon, Facebook and Twitter at work. “Despite attempts to disable access to these websites through the hospital network, the participants noted that employees have quickly figured out to access these websites using the guest network.”

Article written by Joseph Conn

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