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Improving Patient Data Security On Mobile Devices

Fri, 12/14/2012 - 1:27pm

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Launched by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) today, a new education initiative and set of online tools provide healthcare providers and organizations practical tips on ways to protect their patients’ protected health information when using mobile devices such as laptops, tablets, and smartphones.

The initiative is called Mobile Devices: Know the RISKS. Take the STEPS. PROTECT and SECURE Health Information and is available at www.HealthIT.gov/mobiledevices.  It offers educational resources such as videos, easy-to-download fact sheets, and posters to promote best ways to safeguard patient health information.

“The use of mobile health technology holds great promise in improving health and healthcare, but the loss of health information can have a devastating impact on the trust that patients have in their providers. It’s important that these tools are used correctly,” said Joy Pritts, HHS’ Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) chief privacy officer. “Healthcare providers, administrators and their staffs must create a culture of privacy and security across their organizations to ensure the privacy and security of their patients’ protected health information.”

Despite providers’ increasing use of using mobile technology for clinical use, research has shown that only 44 percent of survey respondents encrypt their mobile devices.  Mobile device benefits—portability, size, and convenience—present a challenge when it comes to protecting and securing health information. Along with theft and loss of devices, other risks, such as the inadvertent download of viruses or other malware, are top among reasons for unintentional disclosure of patient data to unauthorized users.

“We know that healthcare providers care deeply about patient trust and the importance of keeping health information secure and confidential,” said Leon Rodriguez, director of the HHS Office for Civil Rights. “This education effort and new online resource give healthcare providers common sense tools to help prevent their patients’ health information from falling into the wrong hands.”

For more information, tips, and steps on protecting and securing health information when using a mobile device visit www.HealthIT.gov/mobiledevices.

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