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BYOD. The vast majority of American workers use their personal smartphones for work –– Bring Your Own Device – and physicians are no exception.

A recent study by Cisco showed that 89% of healthcare workers use their mobile devices for work. However, 41% of these healthcare employees' smartphones were not password protected, and 53% of healthcare employees access unsecured Wi-Fi networks with their smartphones despite the data security risk,

"Wireless technology is convenient and ubiquitous, and most physicians in particular do not want to use different products for work and personal use, and are likely to use one product both for work and personal use," says Rene Quashie, a senior counsel in the Health Care and Life Sciences practice at Epstein Becker Green in Washington, D.C.

Since most personal devices such as smartphones and tablets are unlikely to have encryption and other security controls, and have a higher likelihood of having viruses and malware from apps and Internet browsing, Quashie says that one of the ways hospitals and other organizations are tackling the issue is by developing BYOD management and security policies.

These might contain the following parameters:

  • Specifying what devices are permitted to be used
  • Requiring users to password-protect their devices at all times
  • Mandating the use of a mobile device management solution to protect and manage data
  • Clarifying who owns certain apps and data
  • Specifying the steps to follow when a device is lost

Michael Lanciloti from Spectralink, global leader in wireless solutions for the workplace, believes that another alternative–specialized smart devices that bridge the gap between smartphones and purpose-built mobile solutions–are the answer.

"Leveraging mobile communications can truly improve patient care and productivity, but today's physicians and other hospital staff can feel weighed down by the number of the devices they carry - a phone or two, a scanner, a pager, a computer, a radio."

Instead, says Lanciloti, physicians should look for customized, healthcare-specific wireless devices that combine a phone, scanner, pager, computer and radio all in one, which would all be available at arm's length. These devices should also allow for specialized applications that will enable users to quickly connect and consult with colleagues or answer to patient needs.

But Dr. Christopher Pomrink, a physician at Virtua Health, a healthcare system headquartered in Marlton, N.J., says that the cost of the new technology is always a challenge. "The needs and challenges of each specific organization will determine if the benefit of the technology justify the cost. No matter what route that's chosen, timely, reliable communication is critical to a physician's work."

Wireless is here to stay in the healthcare space, especially as tech product offerings become more sophisticated. But data security will continue to be a serious issue as well.

"The future of wireless technologies involves leveraging mobile devices to enable healthcare workers to deliver the most effective, thoughtful patient care possible," says David Keane, CEO of mobile content enablement provider, bigtincan. "More and more healthcare organizations will see the cost-benefit of workplace mobility and move forward to provide the most rich healthcare experience possible."

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