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The Convergence of Mobility and Healthcare from Symantec’s Perspective

Created: 02 Dec 2011
Axel Wirth's picture
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Ten years ago when we were all still using flip phones, the mobile revolution we’re now experiencing was just a pipe dream for a few forward-thinking individuals. However, the mobile movement is now upon us, and there is no looking back. If there is any doubt of this, consider that according to Gartner, sales of smartphones will exceed 461 million this year – surpassing PC shipments in the process – and rise to 645 million in 2012.

As a result, the paradigm is actually shifting from traditional computing being adapted to mobile devices to mobile computing being adapted to traditional endpoints. For example, early glimpses at Microsoft’s upcoming Windows 8 operating system indicate that the new software will feature the Metro user interface. Where did we first see Metro? It wasn’t on a PC; it was on Windows Phone 7.

If anything is apparent here, it is that the mobility trend is penetrating deep into our lives and as a result has gained a foothold into nearly every – if not every – industry. The healthcare segment is not immune; no pun intended.

mHealth – the practice of medicine or the provision of health services supported by mobile technology – is a hot topic right now and for good reason. mHealth presents the industry with an opportunity to fundamentally change the way healthcare professionals deliver care to patients, and also how patients consume healthcare services. Nearly every aspect of healthcare can be positively affected by the massive proliferation of smart mobile devices. From faster, more accurate diagnoses to better continuing education for healthcare professionals, to cost benefits associated higher efficiency in the care process, mHealth provides benefits to patients, caregivers and the bottom line.

For all its benefits, however, we can’t forget that there are some key challenges rolled up in mHealth as well, especially those around security and privacy. In a space as highly regulated as the healthcare industry, it’s particularly important to pay attention to the growing concerns around the security and proper management of mobile devices and the data they store, receive and send.

2011 saw unprecedented growth in mobile malware. Most threats focused on embarrassing victims and exploiting premium rate number billing, but many threats also sought to steal information. It doesn’t take too much of a stretch of the imagination to see how this could endanger patients and their private information.

Of course, mobile malware is only one of the threats mHealth is facing, and it is not even the highest risk factor. Bigger problems are lost or stolen devices and unauthorized access to or leakage of sensitive information. These threats can be the result of not only malicious thieves or attackers, but well-meaning insiders as well. Thus, risk surface is much wider.

It’s important to remember that all these risks threaten not only information. Since mHealth processes also involve diagnosis and/or treatment support, security events or malfunctions can do actual harm to patients as well.

Symantec’s approach to addressing these mHealth challenges is with a comprehensive, end-to-end strategy that:

  • Provides an all-inclusive set of solutions and services to secure, manage and protect the mHealth ecosystem, including the devices and critical information they access
  • Maps the appropriate solution to each part of the mHealth environment, from device and system manufacturers, to traditional hospital IT departments, to cloud service providers
  • Leverages Symantec’s market-leading security experience and brand recognition
  • Leverages Symantec’s market-leading availability and infrastructure management solutions
  • Utilizes a layered approach to security and information protection

As mobile technology continues to evolve, the opportunities to leverage mHealth will grow. An efficiency and patient satisfaction gap will develop between healthcare providers who choose to embrace mHealth and those that do not. However, as many providers move in this direction they have to take proper security and management considerations into account and put safeguards in place. Symantec can help.