Survey on Mobile Health in Enterprise – 12/13/11

I had the pleasure of meeting with Edna Boone at the mHealth Summit last week. She is senior director of mobile initiatives for HIMSS and shared with me information about mHIMSS and mobile strategy for HIMSS.

On the radar for mHimss is a toolkit it plans to release for the HIMSS Conference in February. The toolkit will focus on helping healthcare organizations develop security and privacy policy for mobile devices. Edna was clear that policy to mHIMSS is not just FCC, FDA, or ONC, but internal organizational policy for mobile use in facilities and by employees.

The toolkit is a result of very clear findings from a recent survey, The 1st Annual Mobile Technology Survey, available online to mHIMSS members, was conducted with 164 mostly CIO-level and technical people at health systems and hospitals. The most interesting findings in the report, especially when taken together, are that (a) 97% of respondents stated that at least one group at their organization used mobile devices for day-to-day activities, and (b) only 38% stated they have a mobile technology policy.

Obviously there is a bit of a lag in institutional policy drafting around mobile despite the impressive adoption rates. For this reason, I it’s an important step for mHIMSS to draft guidance to help organizations develop policy even though it’s not terribly exciting. Creating policy is a positive and worthwhile first step toward getting a handle on mobile device use in healthcare organizations, even though having a policy is not the same as enforcing one.


For enforcement, it goes back in part to supporting user-owned devices, or having a bring-your-own-device policy. The survey assessed this as well, finding that 41% of respondents supported user devices. Enforcement across user-owned devices with different operating systems and builds is challenging, but the bigger challenge is enforcing the use of non-enterprise apps. How do you restrict a clinician from using a dosing calculator or some other clinical tool from a third-party app developer on their own device? 

This is where the FDA needs to step in. If and when the FDA formalizes the proposed rules for mobile apps, maybe you can feel a little more comfortable that a calculator being used to dose your child provides accurate calculations.

Other findings from the report that were interesting pertained to mobile devices provided by healthcare organizations to clinicians. The graph is below.


Computers on wheels and pagers (gotta love that those are still around) are far ahead, but I was surprised to see that 55% and 42% of those surveyed provided smart phones and non-healthcare tablets to clinicians, respectively. Is that a skewed sampling, or are these reflective of the fact that lots of orgs are doing pilots with issued devices?

What’s next after a toolkit for mobile security and privacy policy? I’m curious to see if mHIMSS will head down the consumer health path, especially after the attention given to it at the mHealth Summit. mHIMSS said they will eventually go with guidance for member orgs, but it didn’t sound like it would be in the near future.


Travis Good is an MD/MBA involved with health IT startups.

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