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ONC Plans Mobile Device Security Guidance For Smaller Practices

Posted on August 22, 2012 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

In an effort to help them avoid joining the long list of mobile device-based security failures, ONC has set plans to release guidance for small- and mid-sized providers on securing mobile devices. The agency, which has projects underway studying how mobile devices are used by smaller providers, expects to release its conclusions in the spring, reports

If you read medical business trades, it’s hard to miss that slip-ups with mobile devices and mobile data sources (such as flash drives) have been a major source of security breaches.  In fact, it seems that 54 percent of the 464 HIPAA breaches affecting 500 or more individuals reported to HHS between September 2009 and July 2012 involved the loss or theft of unencryped mobile devices.

To see how smaller medical practices are doing in this area, ONC is conducting an effort dubbed the Endpoint Security Project, for which it has built a health IT implementation typical of mid-sized and small doctor practices, including tablets, laptops, smartphones, storage devices and desktops. When the project is done, ONC plans to release configuration settings which should help these smaller practices protect their mobile device data.

This is all well and good. After all, smallish practices seldom have an IT staffer to advise them on such things, and a simple set of best practices can go a long way.

Still, what strikes me is that time and again, it’s the larger providers whose data breaches are making the news.  That’s no surprise — big providers and hospitals simply have more data endpoints to control — but given this, ONC might make slapping larger organizations into shape more of a priority.

Of course, it’s also true that we don’t want small providers being the “weakest link” in HIEs, or compromising even a comparatively small amount of patient data in their practices. But if ONC’s assuming that big practices and hospitals can take care of themselves, they’re ignoring a truckload of evidence that it ain’t so.

101 Tips to Make Your EMR and EHR More Useful – EHR Tips 6-10

Posted on January 13, 2012 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of and John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Time for the next entry covering Shawn Riley’s list of 101 Tips to Make your EMR and EHR More Useful. I met someone at a conference who commented that they liked this series of posts. I hope you’re all enjoying the series as well. This is the second to last post in the series of EMR tips

10. Build performance dashboards, not just quality dashboards
Yes, Dashboards can work well for clinicians, but for support people as well. If you start measuring something and displaying the results of that measurement, then the measurement improves. Study after study has shown this.

9. Flexibility with physician devices is important, but you still need to standardize
I think this is a little bit of an evolving issue. However, it’s unreasonable to expect your IT staff to support every platform, every version, and every type of device out there. Tech innovation is moving way too fast and an attempt to go this route will lead to failure. Create some standards so you don’t have your IT staff spinning their wheels and cursing your name for a bad policy.

8. Do time studies
My gut reaction to this one is two fold. First, get the data. Don’t assume you know the data. Get as much data as possible and focusing on the time it takes to do things is one of the best places to get data since this is incredibly important for users. Second, don’t shy away from the truth. If your EHR software has doubled the time it takes to do something, don’t be afraid to find that out. It’s better to know that there’s a problem and try to fix it than to let the problem fester because you didn’t want to know the truth.

7. Make sure IT shadows the clinicians
I’d probably take this one step further. If your IT doesn’t want to shadow the clinician, then you might want to find other IT. There’s no way that IT can help to design the proper system for the clinicians if they don’t understand the daily processes that the clinician has to do. Clinicians need to be willing to let IT in on what they do as well. It takes two to Tango and this is certainly true when you’re talking about implementing an EHR. It’s not nearly as pretty if they aren’t dancing together.

6. Use predicative analytics
I’m definitely not an expert on predicative analytics and its application, so I’ll just give you Shawn’s summary:
Predictive analytics are old hat in most industries. However, health care hasn’t put PA in a real forefront of the clinical practice. If you want your physicians (especially in a ED / UC) to be able to prepare for trends due to environment or time, make sure to have PA built into your EMR and easily available for all providers.

If you want to see my analysis of the other 101 EMR and EHR tips, I’ll be updating this page with my 101 EMR and EHR tips analysis. So, click on that link to see the other EMR tips.

Will Carts Delay Adoption of Hospital Mobile Devices? Could Be…

Posted on June 24, 2011 I Written By

Katherine Rourke 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.

I just caught an interesting piece in on the use of plain old, unsexy carts in hospitals — one whose conclusions which may surprise you a bit.  The piece argues that since hospitals are comfortable using carts to haul around full-sized equipment, they may be slower than expected to adopt hot portable devices in care delivery.

The article notes that while mobile devices remain on hospital IT execs’ radar, carts laden with standard technologies like barcode scanners and laptops continue to be popular.

IT administrators interviewed by Health Data Management magazine said that hauling IT equipment with carts may be a better option than mobile deployment.  And research suggests that they’re not alone. According to a HIMSS study quoted in the article, carts are being used by 45 percent of hospitals in 2011, up from 26 percent in a related 2008 study. That’s a pretty dramatic leap.

It certainly makes sense. The fact is, carts make it possible to haul around a full-size keyboard (along with barcode scanners and medication), which allows nurses to work comfortably with EMRs at the bedside.

On the other hand, the small screens and awkward typing mechanisms used by mobile gear can actually slow down the care process.  Not only that, the small text used by mobile devices can be hard for an aging nursing workforce to read, according to Joan Harvey, RN, clinical nurse specialist at Ocean Medical Center, who was interviewed by HDM.

That being said, hospital IT leaders aren’t ignoring the mobile device explosion. At least one hospital interviewed by the reporter, Good Samaritan of Vincennes, Ind., is testing mobile devices for future use. But execs there are frustrated by problems with compatibility between the different operating systems used by the devices, and differences between devices using the same operating environment. When you consider how much easier it may be to just have nurses drag along a standard PC and keyboard, why would they consider buying an Android tablet or iPhone?

Unless this author’s got his facts completely wrong, he’s made a really important point — that mobile device makers had better get their act together if they want to really step into the healthcare market. No matter how fascinating their potential use cases may be, the reality is that mobile vendors won’t make major headway in hospitals unless they get smart about barriers like the ones mention here.  The cool factor just won’t cut it.