Healthcare News & Insights

BYOD: How hospitals are handling this trend

Nowadays, many hospitals support doctors’ use of personal smartphones, tablets and laptops with BYOD programs. And because there are more devices to keep track of inside a facility’s walls, there’s more risk involved. 

ThinkstockPhotos-464516088Recently, Spok, a company specializing in healthcare communication, surveyed over 450 organizations to find out:

  • how the BYOD trend is changing hospitals, and
  • what facilities should be looking out for if staff use their own devices for tasks like checking email or accessing electronic health records (EHR) systems.

According to Spok’s survey, close to three-fourths of facilities currently permit BYOD in some form. At these hospitals, almost half (48%) of the smartphones and tablets used for work-related purposes are owned by employees.

It’s mostly doctors (91%) and fellow executives (79%) who are allowed to participate in BYOD programs, followed closely by IT staff (66%) and nurses (51%).

Most hospitals that allowed BYOD did so to promote easier communication among members of a care team (52%). Other reasons why it was allowed:

  • workflow time savings for users (46%)
  • cost savings (40%)
  • response to physician demand (38%), and
  • greater access to patient information (35%).

BYOD challenges

As expected, the trend hasn’t come without concerns. The top three challenges for hospitals that allow BYOD were:

  1. Data security (62%)
  2. Wi-Fi infrastructure (55%), and
  3. IT support for users (42%).

Because these devices can be used to access sensitive data and patients’ protected health information (PHI), keeping them secure is a significant issue.

In fact, in hospitals that don’t allow BYOD, the vast majority (81%) cited concerns for data security as the primary reason they don’t let staff use their own devices.

In addition, 38% of hospitals said that IT support was a major factor in their decision. Between keeping stored PHI safe on EHRs and maintaining security on a network that’s supporting a vast amount of medical devices, IT resources are stretched thin. BYOD only adds more to their plates.

Due to these issues, 68% said they don’t plan on allowing BYOD anytime soon, but about a third of the hospitals surveyed said they would consider it in the future.

Clear, direct policy

If your hospital allows BYOD for doctors or other staff, or you’re thinking about implementing a program, everyone should be clear on the guidelines, which should be spelled out in your policy.

Surprisingly, only about half the hospitals that allow BYOD have a set policy governing the devices. But this isn’t a good practice, as it could cause confusion among staff about what’s permitted.

And it could even land your hospital in legal trouble if a breach occurs because a personal device is lost, hacked or stolen.

Along with specific rules about what data can be accessed with personal devices, make sure your BYOD policy addresses the following:

  • Device security
  • Consequences for noncompliance with the policy
  • The devices that are supported, and
  • Who pays for both phone service and data plans.

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