mHealth Growth Still Limited by Privacy Concerns

With user privacy concerns rampant across the mobile and social landscapes today, it comes as little surprise that many individuals remain worried about the potential for privacy and security breaches in the application of technology in modern healthcare.

In a recently published interview about factors that constrain the growth of mHealth today, attorney Erin McAlpin Eiselein admits that a lost or stolen phone still remains the biggest threat to patients who store sensitive personal or medial data on their mobile devices.

In short, it boils down to electronically stored protected health information -or ePHI – becoming compromised in the wrong hands.

“In addition to privacy, the other main concern for physicians engaging in mHealth is security,” Eiselein reveals. “The federal government requires all ePHI to be secured in a manner that protects it against unauthorized access. This requires physicians to take steps such as using passwords and encrypted files to protect ePHI.”

But, in the big picture, protecting patient privacy is not presently as simple as it would appear.

“Often,”  Eiselein adds, “devices such as iPhones, blackberries, and iPads and the apps that physicians are using on those devices are not compliant with the security standards. Physicians who electronically store information directly on their smartphones have the greatest risk of running afoul of these privacy and security laws. Simply losing a smartphone can have important and expensive consequences.”

Dr. John Halamka believes that mHealth-related security “will have to move beyond policy-based controls to technology-based controls.” With such added protections will come added prices – both for healthcare providers and recipients. But such a reality may need to manifest before the lingering concerns of patient privacy in the mobile era finally subside.

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