Healthcare News & Insights

Health IT departments must get ready to support, secure tablets

Tablets have been a big hit in the consumer market ever since Apple’s iPad was released. But they’re also incredibly popular with doctors, who want to use them to access electronic medical records and information that can help with treating patients. 

Right now, 30% of physicians own a tablet computer, including 19% who say they use a tablet for their work. The vast majority of physicians with tablets use Apple’s iPad.

An additional 35% say they’re extremely likely to use a tablet in a professional setting within the next few years, meaning a majority of doctors will soon be using tablets in their work.

Doctors working in hospitals are particularly interested in using tablets, with 40% of physicians in inpatient settings saying they’re extremely likely to be using those devices within a few years.

Hospitals are also beginning to purchase devices for their doctors, too — 18% of respondents with a mobile device said it was supplied by their institution. The rest bought the device personally or for their private practice.

These findings suggest healthcare IT departments will soon be asked to support or provide tablets for doctors in their organizations, if they aren’t already doing so.

For the institution to get the most out of tablets and other mobile devices, IT will need to find out what doctors wish to use them for. While it may vary for your organization, among doctors currently using tablets, the most popular clinical uses are:

  1. Looking up drug and treatment reference material
  2. Learning about new treatments and clinical research
  3. Getting assistance for choosing treatments and diagnosing patients
  4. Accessing materials to help educate patients, and
  5. Accessing patient records.

Of course, there are also challenges IT must address before doctors begin using tablets — primarily, concerns about privacy and security when sensitive medical information is carried on a mobile device. If not managed properly, a lost or stolen tablet could result in a breach of patients’ health data.

To minimize those risks while allowing doctors to reap the benefits of tablets, IT departments can consider options such as:

  1. Storing all data on a central server, rather than on the devices themselves, and requiring tablets to access the data through a secure connection
  2. Encrypting all organization-issued and approved personally owned devices and enabling remote wipe for lost or stolen devices, and
  3. Training doctors on the unique security risks of tablet computers.

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