How Your Own Laptop or Smartphone Can Wreak Havoc at Work

Paul Cerrato, MA


April 03, 2013

In This Article


What happens when the computer tablet you use to access patients' records is also the same one you use to play games? It's clear that there's a potential for disaster.

In 2012, Google had to remove 10 Angry Birds-related apps from its Android Market because they contained spyware.[1] More recently, Sophos, a mobile security firm, discovered that a mobile version of Angry Birds contained a Trojan virus -- a form of malware that can turn your smartphone into a "botnet," a slave for hackers looking to infect other machines.[2]

Although doctors need to use smartphones or tablets in order to be efficient, most hospitals or large practices don't provide company tablets or phones to their associated physicians. And if you have your own practice, you're likely to have only one device that does double-duty for both work and personal life. But some of the software, apps, or hyperlinks you access on your device could contain malicious elements that put patient data at risk for being stolen or corrupted.

Clearly, the "bring your own device" (BYOD) movement within the medical profession is a double-edged sword. Physicians love their iPads® and smartphones because they provide remote access to electronic health records (EHRs) and a wide variety of reference tools to monitor drug therapy, keep track of billings, and much more. But the downside is that these devices can create havoc for medical practices, hospital data security, and individual clinicians, if not properly managed. The number of data breaches that have resulted in million-dollar fines for Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) violations is proof.

What should you do to reduce the likelihood of a breach, or to avoid having your data stolen or corrupted, and avoid problems with your practice technology or office systems?

Why Doctors Bring Their Own Devices

The benefits of mobile devices are no exaggeration. When used properly, smartphones and tablets can transform a practice and significantly improve patient care, giving physicians remote access to patient data that in the past required tedious phone calls, insecure faxes, or a trip into the office.

Joseph C. Kvedar, MD, Director of the Center for Connected Health and a dermatologist at Partners Healthcare in Boston, Massachusetts, says: "The idea of mobility extending to clinical decision-making is quite powerful. And isn't it great that I bought my own tablet or smartphone, and I can use it for work, and you don't have to buy me one."