Survey finds top mobile healthcare apps offer ubiquity, security

Internal research from Fiberlink Communications on the most popular healthcare apps offers insight into what users value most in an application.

Data security, convenience and productivity on the go are the chief attributes CIOs appear to value in mobile healthcare applications, according to internal Fiberlink Communications research of 6,000 customers.

After extracting information from 15,000 public and custom apps firms' IT departments pushed to employees over a 14-month period, Fiberlink, an IBM subsidiary, found the apps that penetrated its users' top 10 list range from the corporate to the populist -- but most share a common trait: ubiquity.

Number one in healthcare was Cisco's AnyConnect, a long-established standard in the mobile VPN world.

The data analysis also looked at popular mobile apps in education, financial services, manufacturing, public sector, retail and other niches. Overall, it showed custom apps were used 38% of the time, but in healthcare settings, they outnumbered public apps 17% to 11%.

For Jonathan Dale, the Blue Bell, Pennsylvania-based company's marketing director, the Cisco app's top slot was due to its security offerings in an industry that depends on protecting the sanctity of HIPAA-protected personal health information.

"You don't see Dropbox on there," Dale said of the popular file-exchange app, which is not noted for impenetrability. "Security is paramount."

Healthcare CIOs just say 'no' to Dropbox

Second was Webex, a widely used tool for field-based sales and field service forces that sell healthcare plans and taking care of clients remotely.

Fiberlink's own secure Web browser, MaaS360, took third place, though Dale downplayed the significance of the ranking, saying the data mining effort was not a marketing exercise. Users value its security features, such as back-end blocking of unwanted Web destinations.

Coming in fourth was Google Maps, which is more popular on iPhones than Apple's own navigation app, Apple Maps. "You gotta get there and you gotta get there with a product that works," Dale said.

In the fifth position was Concur, the ubiquitous expense and travel program that companies with mobile workforces use to schedule trips and obtain reimbursements. Next was Adobe Reader, with a similar app, Apple's iBooks, in eighth place. "They enable the reading of essential information," Dale explained. Nitrodesk, a secure email client with wide adoption in the Android market, was seventh, and Apple's Numbers and Google's Chrome browser, popular among IT techs, were 9th and 10th.

Tips for managing BYOD apps

"What we've pulled from the data is it shows a trend of organizations building their own applications as companies figure out what they want in security policies," Dale said. "These apps govern the flow of information."

Increasingly popular in custom apps are features such as rendering copy-and-paste functions of internal data inoperable on other platforms, Dale noted. For example, a company's own secure app can make it impossible to paste text or anything else into a text app such as Apple's iMessage.

Such HIPAA-friendly features may point to more public apps making their way onto healthcare practitioners' mobile devices. "A second trend we're seeing is public app vendors [are] starting to incorporate more security," Dale said.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Shaun Sutner, news and features writer or contact @SSutner on Twitter.

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