It’s no secret that mobile devices are heavily used in everyday life and in the professional world. iPads, tablets and smartphones have also found their place in the working world, particularly in healthcare. One challenge, that all healthcare providers are facing, is making sure these devices are secure. Under HIPAA rules, it is essential that all medical devices, and the data they contain, are protected against misuse. However, according to IT professionals, device users are not as careful as they should be.
According to a Cisco Systems Report, IT professionals believe that employees are engaging in risky behavior that is putting personal and healthcare data at risk. In fact, the survey indicates that over 44% of employees are sharing work devices against company policy and 46% of employees admit to transferring work data to personal devices in order to work from home. In the case of healthcare professionals, this action alone is a violation of HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules.
This is where geo-fencing comes into play. According to TechTarget, geo-fencing (geofencing) is a feature in a software program that uses GPS or radio frequency identification to define geographical boundaries. Once this “virtual barrier” is established, administrators can set up triggers that trigger an alert if the device enters or leave the specific area.
When looking at healthcare, geofencing can limit the information that users can access on devices and also the physical location where access is permitted. Geofencing gives IT professionals greater control over Protected Health Information (PHI) and where it can be accessed. For example, a hospital-owned tablet can have a geofence installed which only allows access to PHI within the boundaries of the hospital. If the tablet is taken outside the boundaries, administrators can remotely, and automatically, prevent hospital information from being accessed.
Aside from keeping healthcare data safe, geofencing is also being used to help users in several different ways.
Navigation: Who hasn’t gotten lost in hospitals? Several hospitals are being proactive by implementing apps that help patients and guests navigate hospital wings and halls.
Safety: Geofencing can also provide safety. For example, caregivers can receive text or email alerts when patients step out of permitted “fenced” areas, like outside the facility or in a maintenance closet.
Sales and Specials: If your facility has a gift shop or cafeteria, you can send notifications to users who are in close proximity.
Manage Care: A recent article from UCSF shared that geofencing can be used to track and manage care for patients. Further, the ability to provide feedback on lifestyle changes that could help them is on the horizon.
Overall, geofencing is quite simply a virtual fence in the real world. It provides many uses in healthcare, from keeping devices and data safe to assisting in managing in patient care. Does your facility use geofencing? If so, leave a comment below on the innovative ways your facility is using geofencing!