The healthcare landscape is increasingly becoming populated with smartphones and tablets, largely as a result of the “bring your own device” phenomenon. That has created headaches for officials in health IT, privacy, and other administrative areas due to concerns over data security, privacy, and patient safety.

The Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) Chief Privacy Office recently launched a project called the Privacy & Security Mobile Device project to address those concerns. The aim is to work toward educating healthcare providers on the finer points of securing and protecting health information on mobile devices. We previously reported on the kickoff event, called the Mobile Devices Roundtable.

The Roundtable was overseen by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology’s (ONC) Office of the Chief Privacy Officer and the HHS Office for Civil Rights.

While the actual roundtable discussion is over (but all available to view here), ONC is still seeking public input on privacy and security issues and best practices related to the use of mobile devices by providers and other health care delivery professionals to access, store, and/or transmit health information. The public comment period will remain openuntil Friday, March 30, 2012.

As with all government efforts, we start with definitions. For the purpose of the request for public input, a mobile device is a handheld transmitting device with multi-functional capabilities used to store, transmit and receive health information and has user control over the access to the health information.

Joy Pritts, JD, chief privacy officer for ONC explains the concerns which can result in medical identity theft.

“The rationale behind this specific project is that the use of mobile devices in health care has skyrocketed in the last year. The concern is that health information is some of the most sensitive information that there is. People lose trust with health care providers when they learn their information is less than secure. The goal of the project is to educate people about practical ways to protect data.”

The categories of questions that the ONC is interested in are:

The government’s desire to regulate medical information on mobile devices is something that the iMedicalApps team has covered before and is nothing new. Last July, the FDA issued draft mHealth guidance defining a small subset of mobile medical apps that may require agency oversight.

As a result, the iMedicalApps team gave an in-depth 3 part analysis of the FDA regulation of mHealth including the basics, the scope of the regulation and the devices and apps to be regulated.

Additionally, we have discussed how the UK Department of Health has now begun to allow physicians to prescribe medical apps to their patients and what impact that has on the American healthcare system.

Bakul Patel, MSEE, MBA, an FDA policy adviser, comments on government regulation.

“In order to foster innovation and protect patients, the FDA must provide clarity to manufacturers and application developers of how we plan to oversee this product area in a very narrow and focused way. “

While the FDA is still soliciting feedback from the healthcare community regarding regulation, there is speculation that a rule will be finalized later in the year.

Source: IDSE