BYOD is Becoming the Norm in Healthcare. What Are the Organizational Impacts?

 

The use of personal devices in professional healthcare settings is on the rise.

Tablets, smart phones and laptops are used by at least two-thirds of medical professionals in the United States every day, according to Forrester’s Q2 2012 Forrsights Workforce Employee Survey.

NMD_BYOD-Norm-Healthcare

Bulletin Healthcare (BH), a provider of daily eNewsBriefings to 550,000 healthcare professionals (HCPs) produced a recent study of 25 leading medical associations that found that consumption of mobile data by HCPs grew by 25 percent from January 2012 to January 2013 (related release). BH reports 52 percent of its subscribers used mobile technology to read their daily briefings. The study also showed that 94 percent of BH subscribers use Apple products, while 6 percent use the Android platform, only a 1 percent change for either platform from the 2012 survey.

Healthcare professionals by group that use mobile devices the most:

  • Society of Emergency Medicine Physician Assistants: 70 percent
  • American College of Emergency Physicians: 64 percent
  • American Medical Association: 63 percent
  • National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners: 63 percent
  • American College of Cardiology: 61 percent

The proliferation of these devices is part of a larger communications revolution in healthcare. Health practitioners are processing data faster than ever and the resulting potential for better patient relations and care is enormous. At the very least, physicians can utilize these devices to keep a finger on the pulse of their practices and keep tabs on the appointment schedule during a given day. Partnering with a professional medical answering service such as NotifyMD, which provides medical call center services such as patient appointment reminders and medical appointment scheduling, keeps a medical practice on the cutting edge of this communications revolution.

Future of BYOD in the Medical Workplace

These adoption rates are probably not a surprise, given the fact that so many of our family members, friends and colleagues now use smart phones, tablets and laptops. What is a bit of a surprise is the finding that the majority of the mobile devices used in the business world are the users; private devices. Gartner, Inc., a leading information technology research company, recently reported that by 2017, “Half of Employers will Require Employees to Supply Their Own Device for Work Purposes”. According to David Willis, vice president and analyst at Gartner, “BYOD strategies are the most radical change to the economics and the culture of client computing in decades…The benefits of BYOD include creating new mobile workforce opportunities, increasing employee satisfaction, and reducing or avoiding costs.”

Security Concerns

A variety of devices brought into work settings and introduced to networks means an increase in security requirements for a company’s network. The job is a big one—every new device introduced can bring a host of issues with them. Just a few of the long list of security issues include things like the potential for a variety of hangers-on (advertisers, for example) having access to a company’s network, untrustworthy mobile applications created by third-party vendors making their way onto the network, sensitive data leakage via “digital breadcrumbs” (bits of information left behind by mobile devices), and careless storage of the mobile device once it leaves the work environment.

According to Kevin Johnson, CEO of a network security consulting firm and self-described “ethical hacker” who spoke at the recent HIMSS Media and Healthcare IT News Privacy Security Forum in Boston, “The security of these devices have been made even worse because of the applications we run on them. The applications bring in the need for even more data.” Introducing more data creates a chain of events that may be detrimental to network security.

There is also the concern of biological cross-contamination from one hospital or home environment to another. Digital devices are likely to be as full of germs as any computer keyboard. Policy questions are quickly raised: is a doctor or nurse going to responsible for sanitizing their devices before introducing them to a new location? Keyboards are said to be one of the filthiest items in our modern world. How will the device owners/users protect their patients and themselves from the microscopic nasties lurking on their keyboards, phone keypad or tablet touchscreen?

Policy

Following pre-determined best practices for the use of BYOD is crucial to success. A free webinar from Gartner spells out its suggested best practices for BYOD, only one of a host of sources on the topic. New technology almost always calls for new policy: don’t get caught behind the curve learning what mobile devices mean to the healthcare setting.