Mobile devices are becoming ever-present in healthcare along with the use of personal devices like smartphones and tablets. It is common to find doctors and nurses checking email, getting lab results and performing different other tasks on their own personal devices like phones and tablets, in an effort to keep up with the day’s workload.
In Spok survey of 2017 it was found that 71% of clinicians said their healthcare facilities allowed some sort of “bring your own device” (BYOD) use – which was a 58% increase from the previous year. Even if the clinicians don’t have an official approval, the practice is quite common. In the same survey it was also found that 65% of doctors and 41% of nurses admitted using personal phones despite hospital policies against their use.
The restriction is understandable. With the wider use of mobile devices, especially BYOD, there are increased privacy and security concerns. Experts believe that hospitals which allow employees to use their personal cell phones in the workplace need to have clear policies on who can use BYOD, how to assure HIPAA compliance and what kinds of information they can transmit or receive. There is a historical context to this concern.
WHY BYOD CAN RAISE RED FLAGS
Previously, as health systems began assessing the mobile device landscape, they generally were either for BYOD or against the idea. In the latter case, health systems partnered with vendors to put an enterprise device in the hands of everyone in the premises who needed one. Such devices allowed for specific functions like communications, data access and sharing and even barcode scanning. But the reach was limited to the healthcare facility’s physical footprint and the device could not leave the facility. It could be locked and wiped clean of data at a moment’s notice too.
Such a concept worked with nurses and support staff but not so much with doctors, many of whom have their own office hours and move from building to building. They collaborate with specialists in other locations as well and work at home. In many cases they have adapted their own devices and are intent on using them at the hospital. A 2015 study published in the Journal of Hospital Librarianship estimated that more than 80% of healthcare professionals were bringing their own devices to work.
This has created issues with privacy and security. A doctor with his own cell phone might be discussing patient information with a colleague one minute – which is a HIPAA red flag – and checking his social media page or discussing lunch plans with his partner the next. In extreme cases, a doctor might even take a quick picture of a curious wound or rash to share with a specialist or colleague, and then have that picture saved in a queue alongside his personal family photos.
The consequence was often a nightmare for IT departments and for health systems executives looking to protect data, improve care coordination through mobile devices and keep staff and patients happy. Stories exist of doctors and nurses designing work-arounds that bypass safety and security protocols or in which they were using their devices in defiance of HIPAA standards.
BYOD Opportunities and Benefits in Healthcare
While the trend towards BYOD in healthcare can pose privacy and security risks in hospitals, it is also opening new opportunities for improvements in communications, workflow and clinical applications. Whether one likes it or not, hospitals are being forced to respond to this growing trend with new policies, greater security and expanded bandwidth. The trend is challenging hospitals to manage the risks in an effective manner and take full advantage of the potential benefits, and promises to change the way networks are managed in healthcare facilities.
The BYOD trend is not just benefiting workers, but also offers significant advantages for businesses, many of which find it cheaper to let employees use their own phones than to provide them with organization-owned and contracted phones. The smartphones can also improve productivity; most healthcare workers are on the go within a hospital and need quick access to patient and treatment information. Supporting their need and ability to access that instantly will facilitate more efficient patient care and will help to lower costs. Hospitals can also benefit from staff being more reachable at any time of the day.
However, for both healthcare workers and employers, the most talked about explanation for rapid rise of BYOD is the urgent need for improved communications. Healthcare is badly in need of improved communication methods. According to The Joint Commission (TJC), almost two-thirds of all reported sentinel events can be tied to a breakdown in communication. A Robert Wood Johnson Foundation study found that nurses waste up to 60 minutes a day tracking down physicians for responses.
According to a published report, hospitals and doctors’ offices nationwide could have avoided nearly 2000 patient deaths and $1.7 billion in malpractice costs if the medical staff and patients communicated better. In all the cases examined by CRICO Strategies, communication failures were a factor in 30% of the malpractice cases. The cases included 1,744 deaths.
In one case, a nurse failed to tell a surgeon that a patient experienced abdominal pain and a drop in the red blood cells level after the operation – which is a sign of internal bleeding. The patient later died of hemorrhaging. In another case, medical office staff received calls from a diabetic patient but did not forward the messages to the patient’s care provider. The patient later collapsed and died from diabetic ketoacidosis.
Healthcare professionals realize the importance of quick and efficient communication for better patient outcomes which is why the trend of BYOD is on the rise. BYOD devices are transforming medical practice. Operating room nurses conduct pre-procedure huddles with surgeons via cell phone. They send text messages to coordinate the arrival of specialists and support staff. Healthcare workers communicate with supervisors with quick text messages.
HUCU- HIPAA COMPLIANT TEXT MESSAGING AND BYOD
In the absence of hospital-provided solutions, text messaging has been adopted as an means of communication within the healthcare environment. It is efficient, quick and allows information to be sent asynchronously and succinctly. However, this type of messaging is not secure at all. Most hospitals have mandated that unsecured text messaging may not be used for protected health information (PHI). In response, vendors are introducing secure, HIPAA-compliant messaging services as alternatives that offer added benefits and promise to improve healthcare communications and workflows even further.
Hucu.ai is one such HIPAA compliant text messaging application that ties in all the benefits of BYOD but with a layer of HIPAA-compliant security. Because administrators control access to Hucu and any information stored in Hucu, it is the best solution for hospitals that allow BYOD. The application is protected with fingerprint scan and pin code. It has separate channels for different patients that work as distinguished threads in which healthcare staff, family members and nurses can communicate. Users can take photos and share secure documents without having those media ever stored on their device. Channels allow easy sharing of information, pictures and even video chatting for real time updates with specific collaborators included in the channels. To reduce workplace stress and confusion, it keeps professional and personal messaging separate in one device. Because Hucu is such a simple way to improve communication,hospitals can see better patient outcomes with BYOD that have Hucu installed.
Hucu can help staff and healthcare professionals communicate with the entire team. It helps them keep everyone updated about the patient so quick decisions can be taken on time. Team members get an opportunity to communicate and voice their opinion which increases their morale. Hucu gives healthcare organizations a way to leverage a sound BYOD policy for improved communication. All of this leads to better patient outcomes which is rewarding for the healthcare staff.
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