Hospital IT Leaders Note Wireless Technology Challenges

As hospitals increasingly turn to wireless technologies to store and manage patient care information, health IT leaders harbor growing concerns about network scalability and security, according to a new HIMSS Analytics’ study titled “Healthcare Provider Network Solutions, Barriers and Challenges.” The report, which surveyed a focus group of seven hospital IT leaders, identified four major infrastructure priorities:

  • Use of mobile devices
  • Security
  • Data storage
  • Images and information exchange

 

“We found that IT network priorities for all participating hospital systems were consistently focused around accommodating greater mobile and wireless connectivity to their networks,” said Jennifer Horowitz, senior director of research for HIMSS Analytics. The ways in which participants said they plan to address these issues, however, varied somewhat.

As part of the study, health IT professionals expressed concerns about security as the use of smartphones and other mobile devices increases in hospitals. Among the issues cited was the rise in “Bring Your Own Device” environments, which allow hospital employees to use their personal mobile devices to access secure networks. Participants also identified security concerns in regards to cloud computing, especially in terms of protecting personal health information stored there.

Focus group members also noted the importance of garnering executive support to ensure network security and scalability in the face of increased mobile-device use. The IT experts noted that hospital executive teams often needed to be educated about the nature of networks, as well as the increased staffing needs that inevitably come with network expansion.

While hospitals’ IT leaders navigate the mobile-device driven challenges of expanding networks, consumers face similar security issues with the growing number of health-related applications now available. In response, the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) recently released a mobile health app guide that offers a best-practices framework for evaluating various apps. Titled “The Just Think App Mobile Health Apps 101: A Primer for Consumers,” the guide makes key recommendations that include familiarizing yourself with the app’s privacy and default settings, and using password protection and encryption, among other security precautions.

The full HIMSS Analytics study on hospitals’ growing wireless networks is available for download at http://www.himssanalytics.org/research/AssetDetail.aspx?pubid=82090&tid=127.

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