Is a BYOD strategy the best way to deploy healthcare apps?

Personal devices are saturating all facets of our society. The healthcare sector is no exception. Healthcare professionals, from nurses to doctors to home healthcare workers, are more and more frequently employing personal devices in the course of their work-related activities. A recent report showed that 80% of doctors use medical apps on their Smartphones.

In light of this new reality, many healthcare companies and service providers are adopting a BYOD (bring your own device) strategy for workers. In this framework, healthcare workers are allowed to use their own digital devices, be it laptops, smartphones, or tablets, to accomplish their professional duties. A 2014 study by Tech Pro Research reported that close to 75% of the healthcare organizations that responded to the survey allowed or planned to allow BYOD policies.

It’s not surprising that so many healthcare organizations are moving towards a BYOD strategy, as it offers many positives. Chief among these is the convenience factor. In a BYOD landscape, healthcare professionals are using devices they are already familiar with. There is no learning curve in integrating the device into the workplace, and workers are already accustomed to using the devices for communication and productivity.

Utilizing healthcare professionals’ own devices also has the benefit of reducing cost. Outfitting an entire organization with a consistent device can be an incredibly costly proposition. Allowing professionals to use their own devices can help avoid these costs and drastically reduce expenditures.

However, there exist significant challenges to adopting a BYOD strategy in any workplace, and these challenges are magnified in the healthcare sector, due to the sensitive nature of the information being transmitted. Many of the most commonly used communication applications, such as text messaging, Dropbox, and Google Docs, are not HIPAA compliant, and utilizing these tools can result in compromised protected health information (and costly fines).

These risks are made even more pronounced given the fact that PHI is an inviting target for hackers. The recent WannaCry ransmoware attack showcased just how vulnerable personal devices really are. As a result of malicious cyberattacks such as this, the Department of Health and Human Service released earlier this month a major report on improving cybersecurity in the healthcare industry. Among the report’s recommendations was “increased security and resilience” of healthcare IT.

Despite these significant challenges, a BYOD healthcare landscape seems inevitable. The best way forward is for healthcare organizations to adopt smart, HIPAA-compliant policies when integrating personal devices into the workflow. This will require applications that provide security measures such as end-to-end encryption so as to ensure secure communication even when healthcare professionals are using their own devices. Secure messaging apps such as AMTELCO’s miSecureMessages, which allow for both convenience and security, are the only safe way forward as healthcare organizations embrace BYOD strategies.

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