How Secure Is Adding Mobile Technology to Health Information Technology Today?

In the computer age, nothing aids a business more than good, effective technology that allows for free-flowing information. In the medical setting, this means updates to patient files and doctor schedules, fast application of knowledge to new situations, quick retrieval of stored information and more. When these systems function smoothly, they are an invaluable addition to any medical setting.

However, is health information technology (HIT) really keeping up with its promises of the last decade? Some say yes, citing electronic file management and machines that can diagnose more effectively than doctors. Among the other benefits are increased error-proofing, decreased paperwork and early detection among patients. And now mobile technology is stepping in to increase patient access and decision-making.

Others, however, say IT isn’t living up. Naysayers contend that it is often more difficult than it has to be in hospital or outpatient settings, hindering employees from doing their jobs effectively. Perhaps more importantly, some detractors claim that putting all patient health information in electronic form heightens its ability to be misused. This danger only increases with the applications offered by mobile tech.

This is not to say that no one takes the security of HIT seriously, for that is certainly not the case. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, for example, maintains an entire page of resources dedication to protecting client health information. This includes ensuring it is used for the right reasons, that patients have access to their own information and that it is not sold.

Nevertheless, experts contend that the dangerous window presented by mobile technology is already opening. According to Diana Manos, senior editor at Healthcare IT News, “Despite the potential of mobile healthcare, experts say they worry about the added risks of security breaches, privacy violations and other concerns that come with the increasing use of mobile technology.”

The most egregious concern, according to Lisa Gallagher, senior director for privacy and security at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, is that patients might lose cell phones that contain unencrypted medical information on them. Until such concerns are addressed, allowing people access to their records through their phones is potentially a serious risk. Doctors too use their devices to conduct their daily business, and often those devices do not meet the same standards that wired-in technology at their place of business might.

The answer? Well, patients, as always, must step in to make some attempt to protect their own information. This means turning off a health app when they are done with it so that they will not be logged in if they lose their device. It also means ensuring that they can discontinue use of an app if they are no longer interested. More than that, medical settings must continue to apply the highest security standards not only to old technology, but to new. Only then will information remain safe in the digital age.

Sources: Advancing Privacy and Security in Health Information Exchange - U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Experts: mHealth poses privacy challenge - Healthcare IT News

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