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Security of devices a thorn in the side of mobile radiology

Medical practitioners' desire to consult their mobile devices during care has been accommodated in some specialties, while radiology lags behind.

Improvements to battery life, wireless connectivity and the availability of mHealth applications have allowed healthcare providers to use their mobile devices and related applications to access EHRs. It's not so simple for radiologists, however, because of more stringent regulatory requirements and wariness about potential security breaches for medical images.

For example, some mobile apps for radiology must first be cleared by the FDA because the agency considers the apps to be medical devices. Although the FDA review process limits the practice of mobile radiology by reducing the number of apps available to radiologists, it also protects their practice and helps ensure the safety of patients.

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Mobile devices, such as tablets, have increased in popularity among radiologists in recent years. Radiologists use them to browse medical images such as X-rays, ultrasounds and MRIs. The convenience and ease of use of mobile devices lets radiologists quickly pull up patient information and any medical studies related to their patient's condition.

Users are able to take advantage of the improved performance of today's mobile devices to access more powerful apps and tools through their device. This also allows software developers to support the transfer of high-quality images or data to users' devices.

Although the wireless device market is booming, concerns about mobile security remain. A report released in February 2014 by the SANS Institute -- an information security training company -- reviewed nearly 50,000 cybercrimes and threats in healthcare organizations. When looking at devices and apps emitting suspicious information flows, 7% of that traffic came from radiology imaging software, according to the SANS report.

Health professionals that have witnessed or read about data breaches or lost and stolen devices know the reality of how damaging these data vulnerabilities can be.

The use of apps as a clinical decision support tool further complicates the security risks for radiologists. App developers are studying published guidelines and protocols developed by radiologists to enhance their offerings beyond simple viewing resources. Any functions that streamline radiological services serve as a welcome addition from the user side.

As more radiologists employ mobile devices, they discover ways to create additional efficiencies through the use of these tools. Mobile devices improve the efficiency of care to radiology patients, but security concerns and FDA regulations continue to hamper efforts for full-blown adoption of mobility.

About the author:
Reda Chouffani is vice president of development at Biz Technology Solutions Inc., which provides software design, development and deployment services for the healthcare industry. Let us know what you think about the story; email or contact @SearchHealthIT on Twitter.


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