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Jan 29 2014   12:46PM GMT

Prescribing tablets: Survey reveals importance of mobile deployments

Posted by: adelvecchio
mHealth, mHealth devices, Mobile devices, mobile health

promo imagesGuest post by Tracy Crowe, director of product marketing, NetMotion Wireless

The kind of tablets healthcare providers are prescribing for themselves these days are not the medicinal kind, rather they are of the mobile computing variety, according to a new survey released by Seattle-based mobile software provider NetMotion Wireless.

In analyzing responses from nearly 200 healthcare executives, the Healthcare Goes Mobile survey revealed that tablets and smartphones are becoming imperative tools for hospitals and home health agencies, in what is becoming an increasingly mobile environment. On the flip side, the survey showed that unresolved mobile security and connectivity issues remain significant concerns that must be overcome through software solutions and best practices.

According to the survey, a vast majority of respondents (92%) said mobile deployments were either extremely or very important to the day-to-day operations of their businesses and how they deliver services to patients.

Among the respondents, 88% said their clinicians currently use laptops, while 64% utilize smartphones and 62% employ tablets.

Moreover, 85% said they were contemplating deploying different mobile devices than what they are currently using across their organizations. Tablets were the most popular choice, with 66% of healthcare providers thinking about deploying them, followed by smartphones at 51%.

This growing wave of interest in mHealth can be attributed to a combination of factors, including the ubiquity and improved processing speed of mobile devices and the wireless networks on which they run. In addition, the majority of today’s workforce is comfortable using mobile devices and recognizes their benefits.

For instance, many physicians regard tablets as an ideal device on which they can transmit orders and view patient data while on the move. Home caregivers rely on tablets and smartphones while making house calls in order to deliver more efficient quality care. Meanwhile, the home health agencies that hire these caregivers can manage their employees from a centralized location via these same mobile devices, along with the help of a mobile virtual private network such as NetMotion’s Mobility solution.

When selecting what specific device to give clinicians, 54% of survey-takers said a significant factor in their decision was the number and type of applications that each device supports. In addition, 46% pointed to compatibility with existing corporate infrastructure as a major driver behind their decision. Cost (43%) and end user requests (31%) were third and fourth on the list, respectively.

Among the respondents, 65% had Windows as their primary operating system, 16% had Apple iOS and 8% had Android. Windows remains the predominant operating system among laptops, while Android and Apple control the smartphone and tablet markets. This creates software incompatibility issues between disparate devices. Consequently, experts believe more healthcare providers could turn to cloud-based applications that are less reliant on a specific operating system.

But incompatibility is far from the only concern surrounding mHealth. Slow network connectivity was the top complaint for 45% of respondents; another 24% said the top problem was dropped connections.

This is especially a concern for home healthcare providers who typically visit patient homes with spotty and unreliable 3G, 4G or LTE cellular coverage. Inconsistent network connectivity can increase the possibility of data loss and reduce productivity, and can make connections with the corporate office difficult.

Security issues are another huge concern — one that stems from uncontrolled use of wireless technology. Such issues compromise network security and put patient data at risk, leading to costly HIPAA violations. Half of survey respondents who manage mobile deployments cited patient security as their top concern and an additional 24% ranked it as their second biggest concern.

Security risks are heightened further when employees use their own personal mobile device. According to the survey, 48% of hospitals and health systems use a mix of personal and corporate devices, although a pure bring your own device (BYOD) policy is rare. Only 7% of respondents have one. In addition, 71% of home health agencies have their corporate IT departments issue mobile devices, with 7% instituting a BYOD policy.

Ultimately, developing a company-wide policy that governs BYOD use is critical to ensure data security. Many experts agree that any personal mobile device used for business must at least have password protection, data encryption and the ability to remotely wipe the device clean if it’s lost or stolen.

A good policy also enforces HIPAA privacy rules by controlling how staff can take and store patient images. For instance, any video or photo of an injury or wound must be free of patient-identifying information, and employees should promptly delete images once they are no longer needed.

The home health industry is clearly enjoying the benefits of mobility, while doing their best to manage the challenges of extending tablets and smartphones to hospital and home health workers. This survey confirms that solutions focusing on connectivity, visibility and control of mobile devices are essential to more productive mobile deployments in healthcare.

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