New tools secure mobile health data

HHS launched an education initiative to help providers protect health information.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services today released several online tools to help health-care providers use mobile devices such as smartphones, tablet computers and laptops without risking breaches of patient health information.

The tools are part of an HHS education initiative to help providers and other health-care organizations better secure protected health information on mobile devices. The multipronged initiative also includes a variety of videos, fact sheets, FAQs and posters.

In a recent Ponemon Institute survey on patient privacy and data security, 94 percent of health-care organizations reported a data breach in the past two years. The most common security breach was the loss of equipment, primarily mobile devices, reported by 46 percent of respondents.

Larry Ponemon, chairman of the institute, based in Portland, Ore., said many of the breaches can be traced to the use of cloud computing services and the rapid growth of workers using their own mobile devices in the workplace.

“Many organizations admit they are not confident they can make certain these devices are secure and that patient data in the cloud is properly protected,” Ponemon said in a statement. “Overall, most organizations surveyed say they have insufficient resources to prevent and detect data breaches."

The HHS education initiative grew out of a Mobile Device Roundtable held in March. The mobile device security initiative was formally launched today at the annual meeting of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, a division of HHS.