BYOD Policies Could Threaten Healthcare Privacy

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By: Brenda Neugent

As technology puts smartphones into almost every hand, those technological advances may be putting your personal healthcare information at risk, according to a new study.

In a survey of 1,000 healthcare workers conducted by the marketing firm Cisco, 89 percent of healthcare workers in the United States used a personal smartphone for work purposes within the last year.

Since personal devices are less likely to be equipped with certain safety features, that means your health information could fall into anyone’s hands if that smartphone is lost, stolen, or misplaced.

The survey questioned full-time healthcare workers about their use of personal smartphones, often at the direction of employers and then used on employers’ networks as part of the new Bring Your Own Device policy that is sweeping the nation.

The results echoed those of a survey of 130 hospitals which found that 85 percent of physicians and staff used personal devices at work, doing everything from accessing personal and work email on the same device to reviewing medical records, checking drug interaction information, or transferring files, including radiology images and lab results, through potentially unsecure networks.

Problems can be prevented, though, according to Bill Ho, president of the software company Biscom, in an article that appeared earlier this year in Becker’s Medical Review.

Ho suggested several security measures to protect private information, including:

  • Mandatory passwords to act as a line of defense in the event of a lost device
  • Training to ensure that staff is more likely to recognize suspicious activity if it happens
  • The use of applications that encrypt sensitive data in case passwords are cracked
  • Establishing mobile device management systems that will protect client information, especially if systems are hacked

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