HHS Launches Mobile Device Inititative

HHS has announced a new education initiative called Mobile Devices: Know the RISKS. Take the STEPS. PROTECT and SECURE Health Information, including online tools and practical tips for health care providers and organizations to help them protect their patients’ protected health information when using mobile devices such as laptops, tablets, and smartphones. Educational resources such as videos, easy-to-download fact sheets, and posters to promote best ways to safeguard patient health information are available.

Recognizing that portability, size, and convenience are mobile device benefits, HHS pointed out that they present a challenge when it comes to protecting and securing health information. In addition to theft and loss of the devices, the inadvertent download of viruses or other malware, are top among reasons for unintentional disclosure of patient data to unauthorized users, HHS added.

 “Despite providers’ increasing use of using mobile technology for clinical use, the 2011 HIMSS Security Survey found that only 44 percent of survey respondents encrypt their mobile devices,” HHS said. The survey, which reports the opinions of information technology (IT) and security professionals from a wide range of health care provider organizations across the U.S., identifies key issues related to the tools and policies in place to secure electronic patient data at these health care organizations, including organizations’ general security environment, access to patient data, access tracking and audit logs, security in a networked environment and technology tools in place.

Joy Pritts, HHS’ Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) chief privacy officer stated that “[h]ealth care providers, administrators and their staffs must create a culture of privacy and security across their organizations to ensure the privacy and security of their patients’ protected health information.” Leon Rodriguez, director of the HHS Office for Civil Rights believes that “This education effort and new online resource give health care providers common sense tools to help prevent their patients’ health information from falling into the wrong hands.”

For the initiative and additional information, tips, and steps on protecting and securing health information when using a mobile device visit the Health IT website.