4 issues to know regarding BYOD

Consumer devices are appearing more and more in healthcare environments.

The trend of using consumer devices to manage health, called "bring your own device" or BYOD, has earned both praise and criticism. The praise comes from the ease of simply using a personal device to communicate, eliminating the need to log in, but others have raised concerns about data security.

This has led hospitals to implement mobile secure texting apps, but there are several issues to consider before doing so, according to Hemant Goel, COO of Spok, a healthcare communications firm based in Springfield, Va. The technical and financial concerns are often best served by consulting an expert before jumping in, he said in a news release.

Here are four issues to know regarding BYOD in healthcare.

1. Security: Data breaches in healthcare are the buzz of the business at the moment, and using consumer devices for communications regarding patient data could lead to data leaks. A Spyglass Consulting Group survey from January 2015 found that 96 percent of physicians used SMS to coordinate patient care, despite the fact that their hospital did not support it. However, due to high demand, more hospitals are implementing secure texting applications, though not all apps are encrypted the same way — Spok suggests purchasing a secure texting app designed specifically for healthcare to comply with HIPAA.

2. Cost: Hospitals must determine early on who is paying for the devices and the support. If it is not clearly outlined that employees are responsible for the upkeep and purchase of their own devices, they may assume the business will purchase them, causing errors and miscommunication. Asking employees to purchase their own devices is a primary cost-saving benefit of BYOD in hospitals, according to Spok. However, other costs are incorporated — how much data is an employee required to purchase on his or her plan to do the job, how is the Wi-Fi accessible and do some employees receive benefits that others do not? A BYOD program will only be successful if a healthcare organization works out a defined strategy ahead of time, according to HIMSS.

3. Access: If the employees own the devices, what can they access or not access during work hours or on the employer's network? Can an employer determine which apps an employee is allowed to download? These are questions employers must determine before they establish a program, according to Spok. For example, some healthcare organizations do not allow physicians to access an EHR system unless he or she implements recommended procedures to secure a device.

4. IT support: A physician survey found that 81 percent of respondents' employers currently allow some sort of BYOD. Approximately 90 percent are expected to allow BYOD by 2017, according to Spok. However, the challenge for IT teams is to be nimble enough to answer questions about all the different software platforms that will be introduced to the environment. Employers must determine how much the organization's IT support will contribute and what employees must seek out on their own.

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