Using Mobile Devices as Tools for Patient Care Security

October 02, 2015

Mobile technology in medicine has gotten very popular, very quickly. Doctors, nurses and other medical professionals already, as a matter of course, typically refer to their mobile devices during patient visits. They commonly take medical history and make notes on a laptop or tablet and may also share that information with colleagues, or even to look up drug interactions while seeing patients. Since medical experts generally are not IT gurus, you probably do not think about security risks as you race from patient to patient with your tablet.

Mobile has Arrived — along with Concerns about Security Risks

Along with the rest of society, the practice of medicine is going mobile in a big way. Although there is significant risk associated with digital and mobile communication in medicine, doctors, nurses and other clinicians are very familiar with weighing benefit vs risk when considering the effect of treatment vs side effects. Mobile brings such a huge increase in productivity that its use, in a practical sense, is inevitable. Fortunately, when properly balanced with tight security; mobile is a win for patient care and data security.

Making Mobile Tools and Networks Safe for Patient Care

As a dedicated clinician, you want to make patient care time-efficient, accurate and effective—mobile devices can help you with that. But you also want to ensure you don’t accidentally reveal secure patient information or violate HIPAA rules. You can protect your patients and yourself with carefully designed and followed protocols for mobile device usage. At your own practice, you have email appointment scheduling, digital communication with pharmacies and more. When seeing patients in the hospital or clinic setting, you may use a different set of devices and different mobile networks.

The good news is that, as time passes, using mobile devices as patient care tools will get easier with standardization. The Joint Commission Center for Transforming Healthcare is working to make digital networks, mobile communication tools and software both secure and user friendly for medical staff, industry wide. One such project is their Patient Hand-off Communications Toolkit.

For successful mobile use in patient care, it’s important that technology not get ahead of security. Until more standard protocols are developed for the healthcare industry, risk management suggestions include:

  • Do your best to get proper training on each device and network (and schedule the same for your staff). Training should come from the person responsible for creating the network or running it: such as the software maker (for software and mobile devices used in your office and practice) or the medical group, hospital or larger organization in which you work.
  • When selecting devices for your own practice (not issued by a hospital or medical group) be sure to select tools carefully. Try software before committing/contracting to use it. Ask about data security and how it is maintained by the network or software maker from which you are purchasing. If possible, choose software developed with physician input—this way you can be reasonably sure it is user-friendly for medical staff.
  • When using a network or mobile communication tool run by your medical group or hospital, make sure you clearly understand how and when it may be securely used. Be clear on which type of information may be shared by mobile phone, email, etc.; protect passwords; and make sure you are signed into the right network when you share that material.

For more information on liability insurance coverage or keeping secure with electronic health records, contact MedMal Direct today at!



For a recent example of medical data breach and settlement, visit the National Law Review article by Joseph Lazzarotti, published on September 8, 2015.

For tips on staying HIPAA compliant on mobile, read the article by Catherine Barrett of the Federal Working Group, Washington, DC published in October 2011.

For more ways to use mobile technology for patient care visit the article by Dr. Barreau, co-founder of Doc Halo, published December 16, 2014.

For tips on choosing text messaging vendors visit the article by Fred Pennic, published on January 29, 2014 on