Experts weigh in on using mHealth securely

Mobile devices have become as common as the stethoscope in patients' rooms since they're ideal for information sharing and time savings – but they pose huge security risks to patient information, experts say.

Sixty-four percent of physicians own smartphones and 30 percent of physicians have an iPad, with another 28 percent planning to buy one within six months, according to a recent Manhattan Research study. Today there are 10,000 mobile healthcare applications available  on the iPad, with a larger number of them created to provide access to electronic health records. Additionally, a third of physicians use their mobile devices to input to EHR while seeing patients, while the information is fresh.

[See also: Personal mobile devices can pose unknown threat to hospitals]

However, the increase in the use of these mobile devices is exposing new risks to patient health information. In less than two years, from September 22, 2009, through May 8, 2011, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights (OCR) indicates that 116 data breaches of 500 records or more were the direct result of the loss or theft of a mobile device, exposing more than 1.9 million patients’ PHI.

[See also: Top 5 security threats in healthcare]

A panel of five experts in the fields of healthcare IT, security and privacy, data breach and identity theft share their insights below on how healthcare organizations and providers can optimize mobile health (mHealth) while protecting patients’ data: