Embracing Mobility: How Technology Can Help Improve Patient Care

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By Randy Hickel, Manager of Worldwide Healthcare Business Development, HP LaserJet and Enterprise Solutions

Have you noticed that healthcare employees are using their mobile devices and tablets more frequently? According to the Ponemon Institute, 81 percent of healthcare organizations permit employees and medical staff to use their own mobile devices, such as smartphones or tablets, to connect to work networks. With this continued growth of mobile device usage, IT managers must be prepared for the potential challenges that accompany the “always-on,” connected employee, including securing confidential data.

Technology can help to make shifting to a mobile workplace easier and more secure for healthcare providers. This includes securing your print environment, storing patient records in the cloud and implementing a simplified user authentication process. Implementing a comprehensive mobile security strategy has significant benefits, including increased employee productivity, greater collaboration and better-quality patient care.

Adapt to a shifting mobile landscape

Healthcare organizations need to provide patients affordable, thorough and timely care. A crucial component of that care is making sure that private personal health information (PHI) stays that way – private. While most people do not think of mobile or office technology as playing a major role in healthcare privacy, the reality is that adopting the right behind-the-desk technology exponentially improves the patient experience by better protecting sensitive patient information. Conversely, implementing the wrong technology can lead to compromised health information. This has financial implications as well. According to the Ponemon Institute, the cost of a single data breach averages $136 per record compromised, and $5.4M overall.

Protect your print environment. More healthcare organizations are permitting employees and medical staff to use personal mobile devices, such as smartphones or tablets, to connect to their networks or enterprise systems, potentially leaving data unprotected. Rather than discourage personal smartphone use, adopt a secure mobile printing strategy to ensure that healthcare providers print securely using their smartphones or tablets.

It is important to note that your IT environment exists beyond your hardware. Your security strategy should as well. Do not make the mistake of overlooking the IT environment beyond the firewall and servers. Even printers are vulnerable to security breaches, and it is critical to audit your print environment using standards from the Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology. 

Take patients’ medical records to the cloud. Paper-in-hand documents may feel safer because that has been the traditional method of record keeping, but recent data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services indicates that more than 40 percent of Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) data breaches were related to paper. Transferring hard copy medical records to electronic health record (EHR) format and storing them in the cloud decreases the likelihood of a paper breach, reduces storage space, and saves time sorting through and retrieving files. 

There are software solutions available that make scanning, converting and distributing files to predetermined locations simple. Key features you need from the cloud solution you select include optical character recognition (OCR), powerful search tools, audit trail logging capabilities and a cloud subscription model. OCR technology reads and indexes scanned images for optimum search capability, enabling you to search the text of an entire document to find the exact information you need. To help streamline when and how invoices and forms are updated, the audit trail logging capability allows administrative employees to track the activity of every file stored on the cloud, easily catching mistakes and eliminating the need to interpret messy doctor’s notes. A cloud subscription model is a great way for growing healthcare organizations to scale their cloud usage based on need, paying only for the individuals that require access.

Some patients are concerned about what happens to their data once it enters the cloud. Make sure your team is well informed on the process to ease their concerns. Most cloud-based solutions have highly protected data centers and offer bank-grade encryption for data transfer, ensuring files are protected. 

Rethink your authentication process. From badges and PIN codes to usernames and passwords, many physician offices and hospitals require certain levels of clearance to access rooms containing medication and confidential documents. According to a report from analyst firm Frost & Sullivan, approximately 40 percent of companies use authentication methods other than PIN codes when protecting mobile devices used within their company’s IT environment. Near-field communications (NFC) touch-to-authenticate technology is an example of a simple alternative authentication option that allows users to print files directly from their smartphone.

Benefits of going mobile

Behind-the-desk mobile and cloud technologies for medical offices help increase collaboration, improve productivity and cut costs. Secure mobile technologies help make initial data capture more efficient, and providers can easily print prescriptions and other paper documents directly through the use of tablets and secure multifunction printers.

Provide better quality care by focusing on patients, not paperwork. Managing patient files, scheduling patient appointments, patient follow-up calls and filing medication information are just a few of the jobs that administrative professionals in health care organizations juggle. Storing patient information, such as invoices, forms, nurse schedules, prescription/medication information, in the cloud frees up time to focus on quality service for patients. 

And when hardcopy documents are necessary, the ability to print securely to a conveniently located output device dramatically improves clinicians’ workflow. Hospital-based clinicians easily walk several miles a day while seeking technical resources, such as computers and printers. Mobile printing and the ability to access key documents on mobile devices will save healthcare professionals time and steps, allowing them to devote more time to caring for patients. With cloud solutions and convenient mobile printing, employees can focus on improving the patient experience through quality service. 

Randy Hickel is the manager of worldwide healthcare business development for the HP LaserJet and Enterprise Services business, part of the HP Printing and Personal Systems Group. Randy manages a global team of healthcare market development consultants with credentials in HIPAA security and compliance, electronic content management and Lean Six Sigma process improvement. Randy is a Certified Electronic Content Management Professional, Certified HIPAA Professional and Certified Security Compliance Specialist.