Mobile Health Warrants Caution from Providers

July 12, 2016

Using mobile EHR applications means being aware of the privacy implications of carrying protected health information in the palm of their hands.

Mobile EHRs are becoming a popular platform for physicians to use in practice. According to the 2016 Physicians Practice Technology Survey, the number of physicians who utilize mobile EHR apps went from 50 percent in 2013 to 78 percent this past year.

Yet, physicians who use mobile EHRs or other mobile health (mHealth) applications should be careful of the privacy implications in carrying protected health information (PHI) in the palm of their hands. A report from IT security vendor Arxan Technologies indicates that 84 percent of U.S. FDA-approved mHealth apps contained significant security vulnerabilities. Considering the rise in hacking confidential healthcare information it's of the utmost importance that mobile devices are properly secured, say experts.

Joshua Bock, a Mesa, Ariz.-based chiropractor and managing partner of a 24-physician practice, says that reason may be why many of his fellow doctors are hesitant to use mobile EHR apps. "[They are wondering] what will it take to ensure none of the patient's data is compromised. There might be a slight fear of that aspect," he says.

Yet, this doesn't have to be a reason why physicians don't go mobile, says David Lee Scher, a cardiologist and founder and director of DLS Healthcare Consulting, LLC. He says that organizations have to have a good bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy and the proper framework to protect patient data.

A BYOD policy would ensure all mobile devices used to access protected health information (PHI), especially those brought from a physician's home, are secured using the same data protection technologies used in the practice. "Security happens on many levels," says Scher. "If an organization doesn't have a good BYOD policy, these [data security issues] can come into play."

Gabriel Pernais managing editor for Physicians Practice. He can be reached at gabriel.perna@ubm.com.