Making mobile first in healthcare


Mobility poses risks in healthcare, especially when it comes to compliance. However, companies are embarking on “mobile-first” health IT strategies by focusing on web framework, management support, and mobile security training tailored to the healthcare user community. Kaiser Permanente and the Department of Defense Military Health Services are two examples pioneering mobile health.

Previous Mobility Hub blogs, such as Healthcare Needs Pervasive Mobile Policy and Healthcare BYOD Is Risky Business, point to many of the risks that mobility poses in healthcare, especially in the age of HIPAA. However, there are signs that a mobile-first health IT strategy is possible.

Large commercial and military healthcare providers are making strides in mobility. Kaiser Permanente has also been making headlines with its mobile-first approach to customer apps. The company extended its original and very robust web presence to mobile apps:
Both of these apps secure patient information using existing Kaiser Permanente membership information and enable appointment making, refilling prescriptions, and emailing Kaiser Permanente doctors.

Kaiser Permanente launched its latest mobile initiative earlier this year, and made a point to wrap its web and mobile security together. That could be reassuring for some skeptical customers. Details were covered in a press release:

Users’ personal health information is safe and secure while using the new app and the mobile-friendly kp.org, which employ the same security safeguards that protect patient information on the traditional kp.org website, including secure sign-on and automatic sign-out after a period of inactivity.

Part of Kaiser’s extension of web to mobile is an in-depth privacy statement that covers customer information and privacy both on the web and through its mobile apps.
Kaiser’s approach is a step above my own homegrown efforts to use my personal iPad and email to manage doctor appointments and communications. Recent write-ups show the number of Kaiser customers interacting with the company to be on the rise.

DOD requires innovation and balance
When I look for prime examples of mobile-first health IT strategies, I look to the United States Department of Defense, rather than a major urban hospital. A recent FederalNewsRadio.com guest editorial by Mark Goodge, the CTO of the Military Health Service, paints a picture of the challenges its mobile strategy faces trying to serve beneficiaries both on active duty and retired from service.

The DOD is regularly rolling out apps to help treat a variety of physical and mental ailments with the apps becoming a valuable extension of traditional medical care.

Healthcare organizations are in the business of healthcare — not IT, much less mobile devices. While the end-user community can be awfully smart, they aren’t tech people. This means that mobile security education needs to be ongoing and focused on the audience, which may have specific needs.

In the end, a mobile-first health IT strategy needs to have a customized mobile security education program as its foundation. Healthcare workers need to learn mobile security as it applies to their world, not from a stock mobile security class.

Mobile-first healthcare strategies face cultural, compliance, and industry challenges. It is a necessity to accommodate patients and a diverse healthcare workforce, however, so IT must take a holistic approach to mitigate the risks while improving doctor/patient communications and overall patient care.

Image by freeimages.com user: kikashi

This post was originally published on The Mobility Hub on January 25, 2013

Will Kelly is a technical writer and analyst based in the Washington, DC area. His writing experience also includes writing technology articles for CNET TechRepublic and other sites. Will’s technology interests include collaboration platforms, enterprise mobility, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), project management applications, and big data.

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