Best practices for physicians who bring their own devices to work

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) is an irrefutably hot topic. More businesses are deciding to allow employees to work on their own smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices every day. This trend is particularly relevant within the healthcare industry, where four out of five doctors report using mobile devices for work-related tasks1. Additionally, the number of busy physicians and other healthcare professionals who have consolidated their mobile devices to streamline both work and personal life is rapidly rising, but not without some concern.

Busy doctors want mobile devices that make their work day more efficient and flexible. As the burden of juggling multiple devices to separate personal life from work responsibilities becomes an increasing nuisance, consolidating mobile functionality onto a single device makes sense for many. Beyond convenience, bringing one’s own device to work can also result in an increase in productivity and decrease in overhead costs. While smaller practices have historically been slower to adapt to the latest technology trends versus their larger counterparts2, this reduced infrastructure spend often associated with BYOD makes the trend more likely to appeal to the independent practitioner. But despite the benefits, BYOD policies also come with a unique set of risks for doctors in smaller practices.

Since independent practitioners typically lack access to the IT departments that service hospitals and large health systems, they must ensure their own data is protected and are often responsible for making choices about whether they will allow staff to use personal devices for work purposes. Even between just two or three physicians working in an office together, the devices and operating systems used often vary. This lack of uniformity can pose a particularly large security risk for the private practice without in-house IT support to help manage multiple systems. BYOD practices need to be able to configure, manage and implement both security and network changes on a variety of different device types. Doctors must carefully consider how to address this risk, determine if the benefits offered by BYOD outweigh potential costs for their practice, and keep in mind several key factors such as data security and device cleanliness.

Fortunately for small practice physicians who opt to BYOD, options do exist to lessen the associated risks. Secure applications like Vocera Messaging can be installed on clinicians’ devices, enabling important messages and alerts to be shared in a more secure environment than SMS messaging. In instances where providers may wish to share voice messages with one another on their personal movile devices, Vocera Connect is another valuable solution. It enables users on different devices with varying functionality to communicate via voice or data, while allowing system administrators to pair user requirements with the appropriate device for the most secure and cost-effective solution.

Regardless of the mobile technology they use, physicians must be sure that compliance mandates, such as Joint Commission and HIPAA, are adhered to by their practice at all times. This is critical, even if patient data is on a laptop or smartphone owned by themselves or an employee. As such, physicians, office managers and other individuals making IT purchases should look to partner with vendors who understand the importance of taking appropriate precautions to protect patient data on mobile devices. Vendors should be able to monitor corporate data security and openly discuss other capabilities in place to ensure patient data remains safe.

A final concern that doctors and all healthcare professionals must always consider is the cleanliness of mobile devices in patient care areas. Personal devices brought into a physician’s office from the outside can spread germs and other infection. In a similar fashion, those same personal devices risk carrying germs and bacteria from inside the practice out to the rest of the world. Practices must look to implement standard operating procedures for the care of personal devices used by themselves and office employees.

BYOD’s impact on healthcare is undeniable. As an increasing number of doctors turn to mobile solutions to both optimize patient care and improve their workflow, it is a trend that cannot be ignored. Doctors should carefully consider and adopt software and infrastructure controls before using their personal phones for work functions. With the right precautions in place, physicians can successfully combine their work and personal needs on a single mobile device.

References

1. Special Report: Apps, Doctors, and Digital Devices. October 2011. Retrieved from http://www.jacksoncoker.com/physician-career-resources/newsletters/monthlymain/des/Apps.aspx

2. "Physician Office Usage of Electronic Health Records Software," SK&A, Irvine, Calif.