How Mobile Containerization Can Simplify and Improve Patient Care

Paul McRae
Paul McRae

Guest post by Paul McRae, director of business development, healthcare, AirWatch by VMware.

The evolution of mHealth has caused a dramatic increase in the use of mobile devices across the healthcare landscape. Mobile innovations are now positioned to vastly improve both the quality and quantity of the lives of human beings. New technologies and applications are helping organizations lower costs and provide higher quality service to patients. Mobile deployments in the healthcare industry enable clinicians and healthcare IT professionals to access medical records, diagnose illness, integrate with existing providers, enhance patient engagement and improve EHR interoperability.

As EHRs and the growth of deployed mobile devices and apps become increasingly popular, the need for mobility management and security is paramount. To embrace mobility, healthcare organizations must provide secure, easily accessible apps for staff and IT departments must manage devices while remaining HIPAA compliant and protecting patient records.

Enter containerization, an emerging class of management tools that carve out a separate, encrypted zone on the user’s smartphone within which corporate apps and data can reside. Policy controls apply only to what’s in the container, rather than to the entire device.  Mobile containerization offers a way for hospitals to securely deliver apps and data to clinicians without interfering with the users’ ability to access their personal content.

Currently, the end user is divided into two separate personas – the personal and the corporate. Duality provides two different levels of security for very different forms of information present on a device. For example, the corporate security measures might require compliance with federal or HIPAA regulations, a form of monitoring that would be seen as invasive to employee privacy.

Mobile platforms are beginning to integrate containerization into their frameworks, which allows for more secure and tighter amalgamations of data with their corresponding operating systems. OEM’s are placing containers for work use with the underlying OS for greater efficiency, better feature support and improved user transparency. This embedded form of containerization allows IT to maintain consistent security policies to mitigate threats on every mobile device, from smartphones and tablets to laptops, peripheral devices and emerging machine to machine (M2M) technologies.

Containerization allows healthcare organizations to remain compliant with the stringent security requirements they must meet, while providing employees a consistent user experience across multiple platforms. However, each mobile operating system presents its own security challenges, such as Web-based malware or the ability to download apps outside of designated app stores. Securing corporate information that has been accessed on personal devices from applications and content repositories remains a major challenge, especially to ensure data loss prevention (DLP) if the device is stolen or the employee leaves the organization.

Containerization is – or should be – one part of an overall enterprise mobile management (EMM) strategy. Going forward, it should be possible to apply one set of policies to the entire device, another to a protected container where app stores deposit applications, and a third to specific corporate apps, depending on the user’s role or group.

Taking a containerized approach forces healthcare organizations to make additional decisions in regard to managing their mobile fleet, including whether to containerize corporate-dedicated devices or institute a bring your own device (BYOD) policy. Containerization is rapidly becoming a necessity for supporting BYOD, and the technology is constantly evolving. Corporate-dedicated devices can either be user-dedicated or shared by multiple employees, allowing each individual access to a separate data repository related to their specific role within the organization.

For industries like healthcare that need strict security policy and compliance controls, containerization can be especially helpful in making the BYOD experience more appealing for users. With a BYOD policy in place, IT personnel can implement the containerization of patient and provider information in a separate workspace than personal information. This allows for increased productivity, as the care provider is using a device they are already familiar with, while not allowing the device owner to access patient information beyond pre-configured parameters, assuring data privacy is never compromised.

Most mHealth discussions focus on its limitless potential to revolutionize a broken healthcare system. But that’s a lot of pressure for healthcare IT personnel who must find ways to provide caregivers the mobile access they need – which is often to sensitive, protected patient health information. To meet the needs of all stakeholders, IT must strike a balance between enablement and security. EMM providers enable IT to provide caregivers the access they need, while maintaining oversight and protecting patient health information.

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