Essential Healthcare Mobile Security Considerations

The use of Smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices in healthcare is growing. Even though healthcare mobile security issues are numerous, the devices are simply too beneficial. Provided healthcare mobile security problems are tackled, the devices can help to improve efficiency, productivity, patient engagement, staff happiness, and drive down costs.

Many HIPAA-covered entities rely on the devices and consider them to be critical to ensure quality care is provided to patients. They are now used to communicate directly with patients via text message and email, to access patient data, view test results, schedule appointments, and communicate with other members of the care team. Patients are becoming more engaged in their own healthcare thanks to Smartphone apps. They are using their Smartphones to monitor their own health and communicate more effectively with their healthcare providers via patient portals.

Smartphones, tablets, and Smartwatches are now an integral part of modern life. The use of the devices in the workplace offers a myriad of benefits, and provided the correct infrastructure has been implemented, the devices can help improve the speed and efficiency of healthcare delivery. With appropriate healthcare mobile security controls in place, the devices can be used without violating HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules.

Healthcare Mobile Security and HIPAA

Healthcare providers should recognize the benefits that mobile devices can bring, but they must also recognize the considerable risks to data security. If the correct healthcare mobile security protocols have not been implemented, and policies not developed to control use of the devices, data may be placed at risk of exposure and HIPAA rules may be inadvertently violated.

There are so many aspects of mobile security that can go wrong or be overlooked, many consider use of the devices to be a data breach waiting to happen. However, it is possible to leverage the technology and gain important benefits.

Before that is possible, a comprehensive risk assessment must be conducted. A mobile security risk management strategy must also be developed. A system needs to be implemented to allow the devices to be effectively managed and mobile security training must be provided to all members of staff. Failures in the above are almost certain to result in violations of patient privacy. Worse still, the devices could potentially be used as a platform to launch a cyberattack.

Healthcare Mobile Security Considerations

Before mobile devices can be used, healthcare mobile security policies must be developed. If the devices are already allowed, ensure the following best practices are adopted to improve mobile security.

Data Access Controls

Mobile devices can be used from virtually any location and it is no longer necessary for healthcare professionals to be tied to a desk. The portability of the devices also carries a risk. The devices can be easily misplaced, lost, or stolen. Mobile use increases the risk of unauthorized individuals accessing PHI. Robust authentication controls must therefore be used to ensure only authorized individuals can gain access to healthcare networks and patient data.

The devices must have an automatically lock function, feature two-factor authentication controls, incorporate passcodes, and preferably use biometric access controls. If a device is lost or stolen, it must not be possible for an unauthorized individual to gain access to healthcare networks or view data stored on the devices.

Auditing Capability

Auditing is an essential element of healthcare mobile security. Controls need to put in place to prevent unauthorized data access, but healthcare mobile security mechanisms must be implemented to allow audits to take place. Data access auditing is essential. Covered entities must be able to see who accessed data, when, and determine the reason for data access. HIPAA demands it.

Data security audits also need to be conducted regularly to ensure security vulnerabilities have not been allowed to creep in. Penetration testing is required on all mobile devices allowed to connect to the network on an annual basis.

Data Storage and Control

Any healthcare data stored on a mobile device must be encrypted. The devices may be used to store large volumes of unstructured data and systems must be implemented that allow those data to be secured.

In the event that a device is stolen, lost, or the owner of the device leaves their employment, a healthcare provider must be able to remotely delete all data stored on the device. It must be possible to wipe the devices securely, even if physical device access is not possible.

Data Transmission

A secure messaging solution is a critical element of healthcare mobile security. It should be made as easy as possible for users of the devices to communicate with patients, colleagues, and service providers securely. Any PHI transmitted via the device must be protected with end to end encryption. It must also be as difficult as possible for unsecure communication channels to be used. A secure messaging platform will ensure that data can be exchanged securely without risking a violation of HIPAA rules.

Data Security

Hackers are targeting mobile devices and are looking to take advantage of security vulnerabilities. The threat landscape is constantly changing, and new malware and viruses are constantly being developed to target mobile users. It is therefore essential that anti-malware, anti-virus, and anti-phishing controls are employed. These healthcare mobile security solutions must also be updated automatically. Controls must be implemented to prevent malicious apps from being installed on the devices, and software must be regularly updated.

There are many healthcare mobile security issues to consider. Unless a comprehensive risk assessment is conducted to identify vulnerabilities, and those vulnerabilities are addressed, costly data breaches are likely to be suffered and HIPAA regulations violated. Get it right and the benefits from using the devices can be gained without placing healthcare data at risk of exposure.

Author: Richard Anderson

Richard Anderson is the Editor-in-Chief of