Be Prepared: Mobile Devices May Create Care Risks

So, you’ve invested in mobile devices for your clinicians, you’ve beta-tested them successfully with your EMR, and you’ve bullet-proofed the back-end software that supports them. You’re ready to roll. Sweet!

Um, maybe not so sweet, if you don’t have policies in place to mitigate the risks involved in using them. D’oh! After spending all of that money, you may still have work to do.

In a piece appearing on the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality’s Web site the formidable John Halamka, MD, MS, argues that while mobile devices can be great, they also introduce new ways for clinicians to make mistakes.

Halamka, as most everyone in health IT knows, is the CIO of the CareGroup Health System, CIO and Associate Dean for Educational Testing at Harvard Medical School, Chairman of the New England Health Electronic Data Interchange Network (plus many other Cs as well — you have to wonder if Dr. Halamka sleeps).  I mention this primarily to point out that he’s well-qualified to talk innovation as well as knowing what hospitals face.

In his AHRQ piece, Halamka notes that mobile device users are interrupted often, between calls, e-mails and face-to-face conversations. These distractions could lead to meaningful errors and patient harm.

For example, he writes, what if a resident — busy entering an order on her smartphone — gets distracted by a personal text message and doesn’t complete the order, resulting in a med error requiring the patient to get surgery?

Not only that, consider the security implications, he says. With clinicians bringing in their own mobile devices to work, they end up mixing insecure personal apps with highly-secure patient care apps, he says.  What if they lose their device? Potential disaster, as protected health information may be available to whomever finds it.

What do you think the biggest risks will be with mobile health adoption?  Are there other red-flag issues that Halamka hasn’t mentioned here?

About the author

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

1 Comment

  • I didn’t bring that 256 MB RAM Dell Desktop to work, why would I bring my own iPad?

    You get the feeling IT folks think we just want to play with our toys on the job. No. We want something that works and your old point-and-click stuff failed. Plain and simple. They need to get with the program and maintain and distribute suitable technology for the job. Otherwise get out of the way.

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