Healthcare News & Insights

Survey: Health IT pros see tablets as positive and threatening

Both doctors and health IT pros agree that tablets like Apple’s iPad can bring many benefits for health care providers. However, security concerns often keep those devices from being used. 

Mobile devices are becoming popular among healthcare professionals. And doctors prefer tablets over smartphones, according to a survey from research firm comScore. However, less than half (44%) use a tablet every day in their practice, often because their organization doesn’t support the use of those devices.

That’s despite the fact that health IT pros also recognize the benefits of the iPad and other tablets in health care, according to a recent IDG Connect survey.

Among the 111 US IT pros surveyed, nearly all (97%) said they expect consumer devices such as the iPad to have a positive effect on medical practices. One of the top benefits of tablets in health care is that they give doctors a way to access electronic health records (EHRs) and other patient information whenever and wherever they need to.

The devices also give many doctors a better way of using EHRs during patient visits. Instead of awkwardly typing into a computer, a tablet can be held in much the same way as a clipboard.

In addition, many medical school students are finding that the iPad makes a great study aid.

Tablets create risk

However, security concerns often get in the way of those devices being implemented, as 58% of IT pros agreed that using consumer tablets to access protected patient information presents a substantial security threat. One key issue is the danger of those devices being lost or stolen. Several recent healthcare data breaches have involved stolen mobile devices that held unencrypted data.

IT pros are also concerned about the visibility of a tablet’s screen when it’s being used in public. One benefit of tablets in health care is that data can be viewed any time, any where. However, in public places there may be a danger of sensitive information being viewed by others over the doctor’s shoulder.

In addition, there’s a concern that family members may gain inappropriate access to a medical tablet and its data when the doctor brings it home.

Organizations that allow the use of tablets have likely investigated the proper technical controls — including encryption, password protection, etc. — that are needed to keep patient data safe. But to take full advantage of the benefits that the iPad and other tablets can offer, healthcare providers should make sure they’re training doctors on how to safely use mobile devices to view patient information.

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