5 Security Tips To Help You Protect PHI On Any Device

Getting on-demand access to medical records on laptops, smartphones and tablets can be the key to delivering quality and even life-saving patient care.

Patients come with tons of paperwork and accessing it when it’s locked away on hospital computers or saved on incompatible thumb drives and CDs just hinders patient care. Does it make sense for nurses to spend time searching through thick file folders to find a patient form when the data could be safely stored in the cloud and easily accessed on a secure device? New digital solutions are making it easier and safer than ever for healthcare organizations to use personal devices to reduce waste and focus on what really matters.

of respondents consider themselves very likely to open an email from an unknown sender when they are using a personal device. But when using a work device, that figure doubles.

The smartphone in your pocket and the laptop at your home are more than capable of helping you simplify and improve the way you engage with patients. So much so that many private practices, hospitals and other healthcare organizations are implementing Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) programs that allow their employees to do exactly that. The biggest concern against using those tools, of course, is security. Is it possible to keep PHI secure on a personal device? New research suggests so: a recent survey found that employees are actually more cautious when using a personal device for work purposes.

Meanwhile, 14 percent of those polled said they would be very likely to open unrecognized file extensions included in an email on a personal device. Again, things change when that device isn’t their own: 27 percent are very likely to click on a random file when using a work system. Since unsecured emails and attachments are among the most prevalent data security threats, this is no small concern.

Data security is a much bigger task than simply avoiding malicious emails and files, however. Here are five best practices to help you secure your personal device at work and minimize risk for yourself and your medical practice.

Store data in a secure cloud
One of the biggest security hazards for BYOD is employees storing secure work data on their personal devices, which aren’t subject to the same safeguards as your work computers. In fact, fifteen percent of employees store data on personal devices. If your personal device is lost or stolen, the risk is doubled: not only do you risk your sensitive data falling into the wrong hands, your company loses all of your hard work as well.

Be careful in public
Whether you’re at a conference or a coffee shop, you must be aware of the data you’re accessing and who is around you — other people might also want access to that information.

Remain aware of your surroundings when you use a personal device for work when out of the office, and if you’re accessing sensitive patient information, try to find a corner to work where your screen can’t be seen.

83 percent of respondents to one study said they have used a computing device in a public place while having confidential data on the screen.  

Don’t ignore update notifications
In a CIO magazine report, industry expert Fred Mouawad explained that many businesses are beginning to trust third-party services when it comes to security, and the focus has shifted on managing internal users. One major example of this is making sure employees update their personal devices.

Many routine software updates are used to improve security, even among your seemingly inconsequential apps. You don’t need IT oversight to find success here. Just pay attention to those “An app needs your permission to update” notifications, or turn auto updates on, and you’ll be able to keep up.

Use secure networks — or encrypt everything
Many organizations embracing BYOD are also realizing the need to use a secure connection with personal devices. For your organization, this means practicing strategies like connecting to secure network instead of public WiFi whenever you can.

If you can’t use a secure network and somebody needs you to respond something when you’re logged into a public network, make sure data is being encrypted in transit. Some email add-ons and professional file-sharing solutions will even handle this for you.

Don’t change passwords too often
Conventional wisdom is to change passwords frequently to stay ahead of threats. The problem is that changing too often tends to lead to weaker passwords because — let’s face it — it’s a challenge to remember and rotate between several complex passwords. In fact, a recent report from the Federal Trade Commission said that people who change passwords frequently usually do so in predictable ways, and would be better served using stronger passwords and changing them less frequently. One password change every six months is often sufficient.

Learn more
Using personal devices for medical work can help you deliver better patient outcomes while saving time and adding flexibility to your staff, but only when data is secure. Following these five tips can help you get the most out of your devices while minimizing worry.

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