Skip Navigation
BlackBerry Blog

Why Communication is the First Step in Curing Healthcare’s Tech and Security Woes

06.08.15 / Ali Rehman

Beep beep!With the looming threat of cyber crime and the fact that healthcare is one of the most strictly-regulated industries in the world, one expects providers would take more steps towards proper security – especially given that this year marked the first time that criminal attacks eclipsed employee error as the leading cause of data breaches.

Sadly, this does not appear to be the case. Healthcare breaches are increasingly common, with 90 percent of healthcare organizations reporting a data breach that exposed patient data in the last two years. And they cost money – a great deal, as a matter of fact.

According to Bloomberg, data breaches cost U.S. healthcare organizations alone an annual expense of $6 billion – no mean sum for an industry that’s typically so underfunded. Why, then, aren’t providers doing more to address security? Why are 73 percent of healthcare organizations so risk-tolerant with mobile, even though 63 percent see it as their weakest security link?

User Revolt against Unusable Technology

The problem can be traced back to the tenuous relationship between healthcare and technology – a relationship whose problems can ultimately be traced back to poor usability.

“In today’s digital era, a modern hospital deemed the absence of an electronic medical record system to be a premier selling point,” laments UCSF professor Robert M. Wachter. “That hospital is not alone. A 2013 RAND survey of physicians found mixed reactions to electronic record systems, including widespread dissatisfaction. Many respondents cited poor usability, time-consuming data entry, needless alerts, and poor workflow.”

According to a BlackBerry white paper on mobility risk tolerance, mobile technologies were designed with the user experience in mind, not compliance. This has had a significant impact on employee expectations. Usability is no longer a tertiary consideration – it needs to come first.

“It is paramount that organizations adopt mobile security technology that safeguards corporate data without imposing usability restrictions,” reads the paper.

Thus, in order to mend the relationship between healthcare staff and healthcare technology, IT departments need to first rethink their approach to security. They need to understand that it doesn’t matter how secure and compliant an application is if no one wants to use it.

“We need to give employees freedom while being compliant and secure,” explained Jackson Health System CISO Connie Barrera recently. “If it’s not working, they are going to do something else. And usually what they’re doing is probably much less secure. They want to do it right – they just need the right solution.”

How Mobile Collaboration is the Panacea

Mobile messaging is an ideal starting project for healthcare IT departments to address if they seek to make their healthcare firm’s technology more user-friendly. Because collaboration is so central to the effective operation of a hospital, communication services are already used extensively by hospital staff.  Unfortunately, in many cases, these services are far from secure and compliant.

The numbers here are telling enough.

In a recent Spyglass Consulting survey, 96 percent of respondents indicated that they primarily use a smartphone for clinical communications. They cited the ease of use smartphones offer as opposed to traditional communications options such as pagers, paging systems, landlines, and fax machines. Further, more than 70 percent of respondents stated that they feel their IT departments aren’t doing enough to embrace mobility.

Implementation of mobile messaging will do far more than make staff happy, however; it will also help achieve the following:

  • More efficient patient care: Nurses will no longer need to track down doctors in person to ask for their input, housekeeping staff can be promptly notified of vacant rooms that require cleaning, doctors can be immediately notified of lab results and collaborate with their colleagues; the list goes on and on. Mobile messaging means better coordination between hospital staff. That in turn means better, more streamlined patient care.
  • Faster response times: Instant messaging allows for response times far superior to those offered by traditional solutions such as pagers, overhead paging, and cell phones. Further, by consolidating workplace communications into a single platform, hospitals can cut down on both distractions and miscommunication.
  • Better workflow: Pairing mobile IM with a secondary solution like Oculys KeepNTouch to provide visibility into healthcare processes eliminates many traditional stumbling points from hospital workflow. That increased efficiency leads to reduced wait times, better patient outcomes, and higher levels of satisfaction on the part of both patients and staff.

BBM Enterprise (formerly known as BBM Protected) is an excellent choice for providing all of the above. A cross-platform messaging application with enterprise-grade security, it allows for safe, intuitive communication between mobile devices across BlackBerry, iOS, and Android platforms. Messages are secured even if one participant isn’t using BBM Enterprise, and it’s easy to both manage and deploy.

Most importantly, it’s easy to use for employees. All security aspects function in the background, so as not to impede the end user. Further, BBM Enterprise’s messaging functionality is as easy to use as any consumer messaging app, enabling seamless communication both within the company and without. One-on-one chats, group discussions, file sharing, and voice calls can be set up with ease, allowing for a level of collaboration few apps can manage. Hospitals traditionally don’t have the best relationship with technology, but that’s changing. And it needs to. If modern care facilities are going to effectively manage patient data, they need to update their processes and systems so they’re easier for employees to use. And that starts with mobile messaging, since communication is, after all, at the core of healthcare.

Communication is only the first step in creating a secure healthcare strategy. There are many, many more issues to consider, especially where mobility is concerned. Our new book, The BlackBerry Guide to Mobile Healthcare, and webinar series help decision makers address some of the key challenges. Click here to get your free copy of The BlackBerry Guide to Mobile Healthcare and visit BlackBerry Enterprise Webcast Central for archived webcasts on Why Home Healthcare Should Go MobileClinical Collaboration and Hospital Staff Coordination and other enterprise topics.

About Ali Rehman