The CIO's M-Health Challenge: A Balance of Utility & Risk

Brian T. Horowitz, Tech Journalist | 12/11/2012 | 6 comments

Brian T. Horowitz
With the emergence of personal mobile devices in healthcare organizations and the rise of bring your own device (BYOD) policies (a topic we've explored before), CIOs in healthcare are facing the challenge of balancing the usefulness of mobile apps with privacy, compliance, and security issues.

"The more you provide the ability to access information, you open security risks and privacy risks," Dr. Harry Greenspun, senior adviser at the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions, told us.

We spoke with Greenspun to get some insight on what CIOs need to think about when it comes to deploying mobile devices and health apps in the healthcare enterprise. According to Deloitte, healthcare is one of three areas (along with consumer products and financial services) that will lead mobile device growth over the next five years.

When implementing mobile technology, CIOs need to consider who the users are and what they're looking to achieve by using the technology, Greenspun said. "CIOs need to think about what will be useful within their enterprise and to the populations they serve and what's being demanded of them."

Another thing CIOs need to consider is whether the mobile apps they may be using or developing could be subject to regulation. CIOs need to think about whether a mobile health app constitutes a medical device. If it does, it could be subject to Food and Drug Administration regulation. Since these apps can do things like monitor nutrition and blood glucose, they're more likely than other types of apps to be subject to regulation, according to Greenspun.

"The more useful, the more integrated" an app is, "the more likely it is to be pushing against regulatory issues," he said. "As you move closer and closer to something that's tied into mainstream healthcare or the delivery of care or having a larger impact on your health, you tend to push closer and closer to regulatory aspects."

Monetizing mobile health is a challenge for the healthcare industry, so CIOs need to think about how mobile technology fits into a hospital's business model. For example, if devices enable remote health monitoring and lead to better health outcomes, doctors can benefit from additional reimbursement under the Affordable Care Act. "As we move toward accountable care and outcomes, if mobile devices provide help with better data sharing, better coordination of care, and better engagement of consumers, then you'll achieve better outcomes, and that will result in better reimbursement."

CIOs need a governance process to determine which mobile technologies might work for their organization, especially with the emergence of BYOD. "When one group says we need this for our patients, and the other says they need it for their staff, how do you evaluate that and make it work?"

As CIOs deal with the challenges of mobile health and how to implement new technology, they should receive a vote of confidence from their colleagues.

"People need to have a little compassion for the CIO," Greenspun said. "That role continues to evolve, and not only the range of responsibilities that CIOs have, but the much broader geographies and constituencies they have to consider now."

What do you think? Are you worried about regulations around mobile technology? How can healthcare CIOs use that technology to make their organization more efficient? How are you doing it? Comment below.

View Comments: Newest First | Oldest First | Threaded View
batye   The CIO's M-Health Challenge: A Balance of Utility & Risk   1/2/2013 11:38:09 AM
Re: And it requires enablement
DBK - thanks, I see... thanks for clarifying :) when I think more about it... I think you are right :)
DBK   The CIO's M-Health Challenge: A Balance of Utility & Risk   1/2/2013 11:14:39 AM
Re: And it requires enablement
batye - The cloud can bring value to the patient care in terms of security.  If the Electronic Medical Records, EMR, is stored in the cloud and can not be saved to an alternative respository then it helps to maintain compliance and patient security.  It may not directly benefit the doctors or nurses but it does benefit the workflow.
batye   The CIO's M-Health Challenge: A Balance of Utility & Risk   1/1/2013 11:14:27 PM
Re: And it requires enablement
DBK you are right with out this option to get everywhere- right away access, Cloud have no good value of the mobility for doctors and nurses...
DBK   The CIO's M-Health Challenge: A Balance of Utility & Risk   12/12/2012 3:03:22 PM
Re: And it requires enablement
Keeping it in the cloud is good, but you have to be able to access it to.  That was my point regarding the DAS and Wireless capabilities.  Plus mobility for doctors and nurses will improve patient care and help to reduce cost.
soozyg   The CIO's M-Health Challenge: A Balance of Utility & Risk   12/12/2012 2:51:21 PM
Re: And it requires enablement
Susan N's article on E2, Nurses Want BYOD, Too is a very good sibling article to this one. Susan suggests some excellent ways to help IT uncover challenges and issues. I would think the best way to protect privacy and security is to use the cloud--make sure all is secure in the cloud and that BYOD gives only access to the cloud, not storage for data.
DBK   The CIO's M-Health Challenge: A Balance of Utility & Risk   12/11/2012 12:23:36 PM
And it requires enablement
Good post and I appreciate your insight.  My thoughts are twofold; one is that most of the risk can be mitigated by making the portals webified.  In that style your data can be platform agnostic and you can lock it down to reduce data loss.  The next enablement tool is the deployment of a distributed antenna systems (DAS) and those are key in hospitals.  This creates and environment that provides G3 and G4 coverage for providers and guests.  Then you can segment your wireless network to include provider and guest portals plus allocate to the various equipment providers, GE, Siemens Stryker, etc...  But the challenge is finding the vendor that does their homework and knows how to properly design the system and can work well and play well with the carriers.


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