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Securing your physician's smartphone

Tip # 11 – Securing Your Doctor’s Smartphone For HIPAA Compliance

91% of mobile devices are within owners’ reach 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This figure includes physicians and other healthcare practitioners, as well as patients. The nature of the job, most physicians want to be accessible at all times and need their information sources equally available.

  • 92% of physicians today use their smartphones to text regarding patients, except they do it using unsecured mobile networks exposing them to HIPAA violations
  • Doctors and staff need easy ways to quickly exchange messages – to patients, staff, or colleagues
  • Doctors often need ways to quickly send pictures or snapshots of paperwork to staff
  • Conclusion: Subscribe to a secure, HIPAA compliant technology platform that enables instant, secure smartphone communications

Smartphone apps enable all aspects of your medical practice to truly be on call (pun intended). And the right software framework lets physicians perform recurring activities, such as sending referrals, receiving lab results, and viewing patient records, whether they’re out of the office, at the point of care, or anywhere else, at any time.
In addition to voice and text, mobile devices offer connection to wifi for email and web search; global positioning systems (GPS); high-quality cameras, plus video and sound recorders. Couple these features with a powerful processor, ample memory, and a high-resolution screen, and your smartphone is a handheld super-computer. These devices are powerful enough to have replaced desktop systems as the preferred platform for many physicians, who need ever-faster access to updated information at the point of care and beyond.
Likewise, apps and phone accessories can convert patients’ smartphones into mobile medical monitors, measuring vital signs and performing diagnostics. Apps now gather patient data and store it in the cloud for access by healthcare providers, and they can create a patient health profile by continuously collecting and analyzing medical data.
A 2015 HIMSS Mobile Technology Survey of more than 200 healthcare provider employees found that nearly 90% of respondents are using mobile devices in their organizations to engage patients in their healthcare. Survey respondents leveraged mobile tools like app-enabled patient portals, telehealth services, and text capabilities. Thirty-six percent of respondents indicated that app-enabled patient portals are the most effective tool in patient engagement because they allow real-time interaction between patients and providers.
Physicians’ use of smartphone apps generally falls under one of five categories:

  • Administration
  • Health record maintenance and access
  • Communications and consulting with patients and other providers
  • Reference and information gathering, such as drug references and literature research/review
  • Medical education

The most popular smartphone apps for physicians aren’t always free. However, they are convenient and easy to use, HIPAA-aware, designed to communicate with EHRs and practice management software, and capable of providing real-time and near-real-time operations.
According to information gathered by Wolters Kluwer Health in 2014:

  • 72% of physicians access drug information from smartphones.
  • 63% of physicians access medical research from tablets.
  • 44% of physicians communicate with nurses and other staff from smartphones.

This doesn’t mean smart devices will put an end to office visits, according to most industry observers and healthcare app makers. However, virtual visits can be an effective way to provide care for homebound patients who can’t get to your office, or for you and your patients to get information about rare diseases from far-flung specialists.
Smartphone consults can also be an effective treatment for “the worried well,” a growing number of people who aren’t ill but are anxious enough to seek a medical opinion about a possible condition or disease—which they may already have accessed information about on their smartphones.

  1. Referral MD, November 21, 2016, “30 Amazing Mobile Health Technology Statistics for Today’s Physician,” https://getreferralmd.com/2015/08/mobile-healthcare-technology-statistics/
  2. National Institutes of Health, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, May 2014, “Mobile Devices and Apps for Health Care Professionals: Uses and Benefits,by C. Lee Ventola, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4029126/
  3. The Australian Business Review, September 5, 2017, “FDA nod opens US market to G Medical’s Prizma phone ‘doctor’,” by David Swan, http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/technology/fda-nod-opens-us-market-to-g-medicals-prizma-phone-doctor/news-story/b92b3cfa68b34d2d966419fa8a0b6ea6
  4. The Guardian, cited in Business Insider.com, June 9, 2014, “10 Ways Mobile Is Transforming Health Care,” by Guardian writers Chris Duffey and Katie Erbs, http://www.businessinsider.com/10-ways-mobile-is-transforming-health-care-2014-6
  5. HIMSS, April 14, 2015, “2015 HIMSS Mobile Technology Survey,” http://www.himss.org/2015-mobile-survey
  6. Wolters Kluwer Health infographic cited in HIT Consultant blog, February 20, 2014, “Top Physician Information Sources by Mobile Device,” by Jasmine Pennic, http://hitconsultant.net/2014/02/20/infographic-top-physician-information-sources-mobile-device/
  7. CNBC, October 9, 2015, “Can your smartphone replace your doctor?” by Arjun Kharpal, https://www.cnbc.com/2015/10/09/can-medical-smartphone-apps-replace-your-doctor.html


Last Updated on September 26, 2017

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