Private by design: Why Apple’s iOS meets the needs of healthcare IT

For organizations to fully embrace mobile devices in their healthcare IT strategy, security and privacy must be ensured. Apple’s private by design strategy gives it an advantage in this area.

Apple, iOS, health, mhealth, iPad, iPhone
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Relative to health-focused innovations across history, iOS, iPhones, iPads and other mobile devices are very recent additions to the medical care arsenal, but they seem to be good for you, fresh research claims.

Mobile solutions boost patient satisfaction

Apple has been investing deeply in mobile healthcare. A global survey published today suggests that investment is not misplaced. It shows that hospitals that have put mobile device initiatives in place see an instant improvement in patient satisfaction.

One-third (32 percent) of places implementing such a plan saw a significant increase in patient experience scores, while 96 percent saw some positive impact.

How are these devices being used?

Don’t get too excited (yet), because despite cutting-edge tales of iPads being used in surgeries or mobile phones being deployed to help track the spread of virulent disease, the most widely adopted usage cases are far more prosaic. You’ll see mobile devices in use at:

  • Nursing stations (72 percent)
  • Administrative offices (63 percent)
  • Patient in-room systems (56 percent)

Deployment is accelerating

Those are the starting points, but the survey of 600 healthcare IT pros (conducted by Vanson Bourne and commissioned by Jamf) shows the usage case expanding:

Over half (59 percent) expect to see mobile devices used by clinical care teams and administrative staff (54 percent) in future. This chimes well with a recent Spyglass survey that showed nine out of 10 U.S. healthcare systems plan significant mobile investments in the next 18 months.

That’s also confirmed by the fresh survey, which shows 47 percent of healthcare IT professionals plan to increase mobile device use over the next two years — but there’s a big hurdle in the way of more rapid deployment:

Security and privacy

The bugbear for mobile medicine is the same animal currently consuming confidence in the wider mobile sector: security and privacy.

Regulatory fines for violations of HIPAA in the U.S., DPA in the U.K. and GDPR in the EU can cost organizations millions of dollars, so using insecure solutions really isn’t worth the risk at any level of the medical IT food chain. 

Why are security and privacy important to healthcare?

Think about patient health records. Confidential patient data needs to stay that way, and as that data is more widely shared, securing that data becomes a bigger challenge.

That’s a particular challenge when 25 percent of patients are expected to use portable health record systems on their devices by 2020.

MDM systems must improve

Another barrier to more rapid adoption seems to be lack of satisfaction and confidence in existing Mobile Device Management (MDM) and security solutions.

There’s a very real sense of dissatisfaction around existing systems, the research shows. This probably reflects a lack of user-friendliness and compatibility when using some proprietary solutions built to support so-called “hardened” devices in use in the sector.

When asked, IT pros noted, data privacy (54 percent), security/compliance (51 percent) and/or software patches (40 percent) as the biggest barriers to wider mobile device deployments.

Thirty-one percent of decision makers won’t implement mobile strategy until they can be more certain of effective security protection in the devices they deploy.

Apple’s private personal health solution

This translates into an opportunity for the private by design iPhone company.

Apple already has industry-leading security and privacy built in, and a proven commitment to software patches means c.80 percent of all actively used Apple devices are running the most recent version of the OS.

Apple’s recently introduced Health Records app for iPhone is clear evidence of Apple’s advantage. It makes patient data portable in such a way as to put the patient in complete control of that data.

“I think the good thing about the Apple solution is that the data only resides on the end-user’s device,” Mike Restuccia, CIO at Penn Medicine told Computerworld. “So, we don’t have access to that. Apple doesn’t have access to the data. The beauty of the solution is it is patient managed, patient controlled and patient centered.”

Real-time insights and private clouds

That’s fine, but with cloud-based data analytics expected to become a big driver for future mobile healthcare innovation, the need for privacy will become even harder to meet.

Such solutions will require data leave the device in such a way as to provide sufficient information for real-time insights and positive health interventions, while at the same time retaining total patient privacy.

Apple’s investments in differential privacy will likely prove fundamental as it develops new services around its health solutions.

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