As healthcare becomes increasingly mobile, more and more doctors are making use of devices like mobile phones and tablets to practice healthcare. Electronic Health Record and Practice Management systems now offer mobile versions, which means providers can access their patients’ information, manage appointments, and even prescribe medication from anywhere at any time. While this indeed comes with incredible convenience, there has been growing concern about whether sensitive healthcare information is safe and secure when using mobile devices.
It was initially thought that mobile devices are more secure than desktops when it comes to accessing confidential and sensitive information. Unfortunately, however, this has now proven to be false. Mobile users have to make sure they take steps to ensure important information. In the case of providers, there is not only a moral responsibility to protect patients’ information, but there is also a privacy law to worry about; HIPAA compliance requires providers and practices to protect medical information according to certain guidelines, and providers must ensure at all times that they are not breaching these guidelines while using their mobile phones to practice medicine.
Healthcare Threats on Mobile Devices
Even if you think your mobile software provider is doing the job to protect your data, this is an illusion that providers cannot afford to enjoy. Technically, there is no system or OS that is 100% safe. With every new OS release, Apple experiences over 100 breaches! There are always inevitable vulnerabilities that allow cybercriminals to access and exploit confidential medical information.
There are a number of threats posed to healthcare information when it is not entirely secure:
- Viewing or tampering of work-related files of hospitals or practices
- Access to private conversations between physicians and patients
- Theft of contact information of patients
- Theft and potential misuse of provider credentials
- Theft of GPS and location-related information
- Misuse of financial information
- The exploitation of insurance information of patients
These are only a few threats providers risk facing when they fall victim to cybercrime and end up losing confidentiality of important medical information stored in healthcare management applications on their mobile devices
Best Practices to Secure Healthcare Information on Mobile Phones
Fortunately, there are a number of steps providers can take to make their mobile healthcare experience secure. Here are the best practices pertaining to mobile security in healthcare:
- Install an antivirus tool
Almost everyone has an antivirus tool installed on their desktop. However, how many of us do the same for our mobile phones? It is generally assumed that mobile phones are less susceptible to hacking when the truth is actually the entire opposite. It is essential to have antivirus software to protect sensitive information stored on a mobile phone in case of an attempted breach.
- Never download unverified apps
For every OS, there is a secure platform provided by the manufacturer to download applications. It is highly recommended that providers only use these platforms to download apps, and never access and unverified application from a third-party, no matter how well-reviewed or acclaimed it is. Remember: if it is safe, it will be on the official application store.
- Avoid file-sharing applications
For providers, security always has to be one step ahead since they are dealing with sensitive legal information. It is recommended that they avoid file-sharing applications, and instead only use their EMR app, emails, or other official platforms to share information. Sensitive patient information should never be taken out of its official place, no matter how secure and widely used the third-party application is.
- Use multiple password protections
Employ complex passcodes and pins to secure your device. It is also recommended that you secure both your mobile device itself and the sim card it contains. It is also important to take small measures to ensure security, like enabling automatic locking after a certain period of inactivity, using fingerprint scans to allow access, and setting random passwords that cannot be guessed.
- Implement remote security measures
It is important to remember that mobile phones are devices that can easily be lost. Providers who use their mobile devices to practice healthcare must always have backup measures in place in case their cellphones are lost or stolen. Implement automatic lock, remote access, permanent locking after incorrect login attempts, remote wiping capabilities, etc.
- Never tamper with the OS
If you jailbreak your device, you make it extremely susceptible to cyberattacks. Since your OS manufacturer takes essential steps to secure a device and allows you to have control over your information, jailbreaking a device can be extremely risky for a provider with sensitive information on hand.
- Regularly update your mobile device
While hackers do find loopholes in systems, OS manufacturers continually work to upgrade and protect them. It is therefore important for providers to make sure they don’t ignore upgrade notifications, and regularly stay updated on not only their OS but also on the healthcare applications, like mobile emr systems , that they use.
In essence, protecting a patient’s information on your mobile phone is the same as protecting your own private data. By simply following the common rules for mobile security, providers can make sure that they are not breaching HIPAA privacy laws. While awareness and education on mobile security might not be the ultimate solution for cyberattacks, it is definitely a start, and it is the small steps that can sometimes make all the difference.