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Apr 23 2014   12:10PM GMT

BYOD in healthcare: It’s all about maintaining a healthy balance

Posted by: adelvecchio
BYOD, containerization, mobile device management, Mobile devices, tablets

Jonathan FoulkesGuest post by Jonathan Foulkes, vice president of mobile product management at Kaseya

Few industries have been affected by the proliferation of mobile devices as much as the healthcare sector. The industry is known for its forward thinking with regards to adoption of technology in order to support initiatives to reduce care disparities and improve quality. An example of this is that many hospitals and clinics were using tablet computing devices years before the iPad was introduced. In recent years, the move to consumer mobile devices in the workplace has continued to grow throughout every type of industry.

Mobile devices are a natural fit for the healthcare environment. Physicians, nurses and technicians are frequently on the move within and between facilities, going from patient rooms to offices to laboratories and other facilities. The ability to easily access clinical applications or data — whether it’s information about patients, conditions, drugs, treatment techniques or other data — from multiple locations is a huge benefit for healthcare personnel. With EHRs emerging as a key part of the process of treating patients and maintaining healthcare records, mobile access to information is even more critical for healthcare providers.

Devices, such as smartphones and tablets can also lead to greater collaboration among healthcare professionals. Physicians can easily share visual or graphical information about patients and conditions with other medical specialists. They can also quickly exchange ideas about treatment options by accessing resources around the world. This expanded access to information and enhanced collaboration can help increase the productivity of medical professionals. More importantly, it can potentially help improve the treatment patients receive and save lives.

Challenges for healthcare IT

IT executives face a number of challenges related to BYOD. Their main concern is striking a healthy balance between managing devices and managing information. They must work to ensure that information is secure and that personal devices pose no threats or risks to their organization. Most healthcare data, such as patient records is extremely sensitive. Hospitals, clinics and other facilities must make sure that this information is protected from intrusions and unwanted exposure. Aside from assuring patients that their privacy is protected, healthcare institutions must comply with regulations such as HIPAA.

Protecting company-owned smartphones and tablets against security threats such as hackers, viruses, and breaches must also be a high priority. Organizations need to determine how they can best enforce security policies regarding mobile devices that move in and out of the network. They must establish whether policies should differ depending on the roles of users, what should be done when a device is lost or stolen, and whether they have the procedures and technologies in place to recover or remotely wipe a missing device.

A winning strategy

To address these challenges, healthcare IT departments need to ensure they are effectively managing the growing and complex mobile environment. A traditional approach has been to apply device management, but that conflicts with BYOD users’ desire to control their own device, creating tension between users and IT departments.

There are new solutions that eliminate device management requirements by using “containers” to segregate enterprise information and applications in personal devices. With containerization, people are free to use their smartphones and tablets as they are accustomed to. They are also able to access corporate information without putting corporate assets at risk. In the event that a device is lost or stolen, containers can be wiped remotely without wiping the device of any personal assets or altering personal data or usage in any way. By housing enterprise assets in a secure encrypted data store within the device, containers represent an excellent BYOD solution for mobile computing in healthcare settings.

Containerization lets employees use their own tablets and smartphones in the work environment and access corporate information via a suite of secure containers that provide security, manageability and isolation from personal data. This preserves the employee’s freedom to use their device as they see fit, yet provides the IT department a means of fully controlling who and what devices can access sensitive information.

The best BYOD solutions provide a secure communication channel to the container applications. This eliminates dealing with virtual private network configurations or exposing the network to any malware hosted on a user device. Keeping devices off the network also reduces the need for device management and makes it more practical to deploy on third-party managed devices, such as those carried by physicians for whom enforcing device-level controls might be impractical or impossible.

Containerization delivers the isolation between personal and corporate assets, while preserving the “personal” nature of a device. Healthcare workers can access internal applications via a secure browser, documents via a secure document manager and use the secure mail container for sensitive communications. IT departments are fond of this approach because it enables them to focus on what is most critical: the information. When it comes to BYOD, you should manage the data, not the device.

The proliferation of smartphones and tablets is transforming the way healthcare professionals work, how they access data, communicate and collaborate with colleagues, and interact with patients. Mobile technology has the potential to increase productivity, reduce costs and improve the level of patient care. The growth of mobile devices and the advent of BYOD can introduce new challenges for health IT. Healthcare organizations that proactively address the challenges and deploy a BYOD-friendly container strategy will likely increase their ability to succeed while accommodating these fast-growing technologies.

About the author:

Jonathan Foulkes is the vice president of Mobile Product Management at Kaseya, and was previously the CEO and co-founder of Rover Apps, a mobile solutions provider acquired by Kaseya in July of 2013. Jonathan has more than 25 years of experience in technical leadership and executive roles at companies such as Reed Business Information, Clinical Solutions, DoubleClick (Google) and DCA / Attachmate, with a track record of success in delivering leading solutions in highly competitive markets.

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