How BYOD Strategies Will Affect the Future of Mobile Health

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“Among the trends that are affecting the future of mobile health would be things like the greater availability of personal mobile devices.”

Could BYOD strategies impact the future of the mobile health space? Read on to find out.

The healthcare industry is continually looking toward mobile devices and BYOD strategies as a method for improving communication between patients and physicians, reducing costs, and enabling better health information access through patient portals and other mobile apps.

However, alongside BYOD strategies, hospitals and healthcare systems are potentially putting patient data at risk of a breach. Mobile security is a major topic of conversation when implementing BYOD strategies. To hear the opinion of an expert on BYOD, mobile security, and the future of mobile health, interviewed Gerard Nussbaum, Director of Technology Services at Kurt Salmon. Have you noticed Bring Your Own Device policies expand throughout the healthcare space? Do you support the spread of BYOD?

Gerard Nussbaum: “I think BYOD is a huge benefit to the healthcare space for a number of reasons. One – it acknowledges the fact that people are going to bring their own device and seek to use them in their work, as well as their personal life.”

“Two – healthcare providers can’t really afford to give everyone who would benefit from a device, a device. So having the physician on the medical staff or an employee use their own device can provide access to mobile tools to people who might otherwise not be able to benefit from mobile tools.”

“Bring Your Own Device is currently spreading through hospitals, health systems, ambulatory practices, and clinics. We’re starting to even see some BYOD approaches expand to include patients by providing them access to mobile apps and tools.” How can hospitals and healthcare providers address mobile security with the use of personal devices and mobile apps? How can the healthcare industry prevent cyberattacks?

Gerard Nussbaum: “First thing is, you can’t actually prevent a cyberattack. It’s going to happen. It probably already has. What you can do is minimize your risk of a breach due to a cyberattack or some other adverse outcome by careful planning and preparation.”

“You have to look at the type of information and the type of access that you’re granting to an employee or medical staff member and create appropriate security for that type of scenario. In the case of someone who’s gaining access to a series of clinical applications, the risks relate to breach of PHI, as well as the risk of adverse outcomes through alteration of the information, there’s a continuum of things you can do.”

“One of this is that you can lock down the device in its entirety. This doesn’t always work out that well because people may have personal things on the device that they may not want to be subject to being locked out or erased in the event of device loss.”

“There are tools that create a separate environment on the phone. You can then secure that environment. You will have your ‘box’ of work-related applications and you can add some additional security for those while leaving the rest of the individual’s personal applications and information outside of that ‘box’.”

“We’re seeing folks try to do things like scanning devices for viruses and the like. I think fundamentally, you can’t have applications that store data on the device. In other words, if all the data stays in the data center on the backend and the device is being used to view and interact with that data, this is more secure than if the application is downloading data to the device. Everything’s a balancing act.”

“Among the other aspects of cybersecurity of which one needs to be aware – the legal aspects of the use and the collection of information is another challenge to the whole process of dealing with mobile devices. Also, the FDA’s guidelines on cybersecurity and whether mobile apps are actually medical devices or not is still somewhat of a grey area in some cases.” Are you finding that use of remote monitoring tools and mobile health devices are able to cut hospital readmission rates? Do they help improve health outcomes?                                                                                                                       

Gerard Nussbaum: “The answer to that question is yes on a variety of levels. The proactive efforts by a health system to help the patients manage their health includes giving tools to care managers and giving additional information to visiting nurses and the like.”

“This can help get information flowing faster, which can support interventions with the patient occurring earlier because we’ve equipped clinicians who are out in the field with the ability to collect information and get it back to the folks at the health system who can act on it sooner.”

“Clearly, giving more data and access to physicians and other clinicians in the ambulatory space, while not unique to mobile health – certainly through the use of tablets and iPhone/iPad applications – can help improve the information flow. Mobile access is an additional advantage in conjunction with expanding interoperability of EHRs.”

“On the patient side, its a little bit more nascent in terms of giving patients tools to help them better manage their own care. Some benefits include using the smartphone as a device to prompt patients to engage in healthy behaviors, allow collection of and clinician access to data from monitoring devices such as blood pressure cuffs or scales, and using mobile tools to monitor a patient’s mental state. ”

“Using the phone as a medium to communicate that information back to the physician office is especially valuable for patients who have chronic conditions, as timely patient action is very important to effectively managing the patient’s health. Real time information and response can help avoid conditions that if left to fester would lead to the need to a trip to the emergency room or even an inpatient admission.” Where do you see the future of mobile health moving? Specifically what trends are affecting the future of mobile health?

Gerard Nussbaum: “Among the trends that are affecting the future of mobile health are the greater availability of personal mobile devices: the number of people who have smartphones like iPhones, Androids, et cetera continues to grow.  This provides more and more patients with access to the technology to manage their own care in conjunction with their doctors. We can bring this to a greater number of folks as mobile device penetration continues to increase.”

“The advent of development kits like Apple’s Health Kit are making it easier for folks to develop patient-focused or clinician-focused applications that tie into other systems on the phone, like collecting movement data and using it to connect to instant monitoring devices.”

“Research Kit from Apple allows researchers to develop applications that support significantly expanding the number of folks who can participate in clinical trials either through recruitment or data collection as part of the clinical trial.”

“The ability to integrate not only direct physiological data but also social and emotional data can help alert caregivers to changes in patient condition that may warrant an intervention.  For example, there is a very interesting set of applications from that is being used in a number of places, including UCSF. It monitors people’s social interaction habits to determine whether there’s a change in their behavior, perhaps depression or other conditions, that might lead to deterioration of the patients health.  This data is combined with sensor date to provide a fuller picture of the patient’s condition.”

“These capabilities are well beyond the days of patients manually recording their action, such as ‘I took a walk for 15 minutes.’  Now we can use physiological monitoring data from a FitBit/Jawbone/Apple Watch, combined with map data of their route, time of day, and potentially external data such as temperature, and pollution or pollen level, to gain a more nuanced picture of the patient’s health and any changes in condition.  For example: knowing that the pollen count and ozone were high when the patient took their walk may influence how we view their pulmonary response for an asthma patient.”

“The continued development of cloud-based solutions that would allow the aggregation of data not only from mobile platforms but from EHRs and other systems will help integrate the data and develop more real-time interactions for the patient as well as the clinician.”

“This brings more capabilities at a lower cost over time due to advances in technology, processing power, storage, rapid cycle app development, and analytics.”


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