Home Health & Hospice: Are You Protecting PHI on Mobile Devices?

Protect and Secure.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced last week that they launched a new education initiative and set of online tools geared toward providing health care providers practical tips on ways to protect their patients’ protected health information when using mobile devices such as laptops, tablets and smart phones.

The initiative is called Mobile Devices: Know the RISKS. Take the STEPS. PROTECT and SECURE Health Information and is available here.  Some of the available resources include educational resources such as videos, easy-to-download fact sheets and posters to promote best ways to safeguard patient health information.

Even though use of mobile technology among providers’ for clinical use steadily increases, research conducted in 2011 by HIMSS showed that only 44% of survey respondents encrypt their mobile devices.  Mobile device benefits—portability, size, and convenience—present a challenge when it comes to protecting and securing health information. Additionally risk of theft, employees losing their devices or acquiring viruses and other malware are some of the top reasons for unintentional disclosure of patient data to unauthorized users.

I recommend all agencies take advantage of the free resources and tools that HHS and CMS routinely provide regarding HIPAA. Additional information regarding HIPAA can be located on the HHS website here.