How To Manage BYOD Systems In The Healthcare Arena
The Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend has gained traction within the healthcare and medical space and it offers a number of benefits for both large and small health institutions. However, the BYOD trend also presents a number of challenges, chiefly related to security. Security within the medical arena is hugely important, not only owing to patient confidentiality, but also because prescriptions and medical records are shared electronically and can be extremely damaging if they fall into the wrong hands. Until very recently, medical institutions and hospitals have also been more concerned with focusing on their core business than dealing with IT security, but the reality is that in today’s world security challenges need to be addressed if hospitals are to take advantage of the value of BYOD without falling foul of the problems it can bring. The debate surrounding data security has become even more prevalent in recent months, after figures suggest that 85 percent of hospitals are introducing BYOD as a concept.
For healthcare institutions, the concept of BYOD can be enormously beneficial. It can help to increase productivity, as every individual has their own preference on how they work best, and BYOD lets them use the device of their choice, with which they are already familiar. There is also a cost saving benefit, since the institution no longer needs to buy specific devices. However, while the flexibility and person aspect of BYOD is one of its benefits, it is also one of its biggest weaknesses, since this concept is prone to opening an organisation up to a host of security concerns. Currently, the trend is such that doctors have limited access to institution specific applications, however this level of engagement from personal devices is on the rise each and every day.
Ensure Correct Permission Is Granted To Users
In order to react to this changing trend, the challenge is to find the right balance of access for authorised users, while ensuring that unauthorised persons cannot gain access to the hospital’s network. Chief Information Officers need to prevent unauthorised access to data, and ensure that permissions are setup properly to achieve this while allowing doctors and medical staff to access the information they need.
However, BYOD and the security challenges surrounding it are not the only security issues faced by hospitals. If a hospital is considering rolling out a fully operational BYOD system it would be well advised to set strict guidelines regarding password and login user information. Leaving standard passwords or having weak passwords on the devices means that outside users can gain access to the network. Internet security is also important, and it is necessary to have adequate firewall technology in place to prevent external threats.
Circling back to the issue of BYOD, there are several other security concerns given the mobile nature of these devices. Because they are portable, they are more likely to get lost or stolen, which means that sensitive information could be compromised. Using built-in features such as screen locks and passwords is a simple but necessary step to preventing the casual attacker. It is highly recommended that healthcare institutions invest in security technology that enables the encryption of sensitive information, as well as the ability to remotely wipe the device should it go missing.
BYOD Schemes Allow Doctors To Use The Mobile Devices They Feel Most Comfortable With
Ensuring Safety When Working Remotely
It is also necessary to allow users on mobile devices such as laptops and tablets to access the institution’s network when they are not on site. Securing remote access can be done either by ensuring a very strong password is in place, or by hard coding access for specific devices using each device’s unique MAC address. This will block any devices that are not permitted from accessing the network. Remote desktop technology is another option, allowing the user to access the server as if they were in the hospital, ensuring that the same security policies apply to remote working as they do on site. It is also possible to set up a Sharepoint site that allows users to access common data via the Internet, with passwords to authenticate users and access.
BYOD offers many benefits to health institutions, and is a convenient way of allowing users to work on technology they feel comfortable with. However, it does present security challenges on top of those already faced. When it comes to securing the organisation, this often is not a core focus or priority. It is therefore often a good option to partner with a reliable and reputable IT service provider that will ensure security solutions meet requirements, are fit for purpose, and will allow medical institutions to benefit from the technology without falling prey to attacks and security threats.
How UiPath robots are helping with the NHS backlog
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many hospitals to have logistical nightmares, as backlogs of surgeries built up as a result of cancellations. The BMJ has estimated it will take the UK's National Health Service (NHS) a year and a half to recover.
However software robots can help, by automating computer-based processes such as replenishing inventory, managing patient bookings, and digitising patient files. Mark O’Connor, Public Sector Director for Ireland at UiPath, tells us how they deployed robots at Mater Hospital in Dublin, saving clinicians valuable time.
When Did Mater Hospital implement the software robots - was it specifically to address the challenges of the pandemic?
The need for automation at Mater Hospital pre-existed the pandemic but it was the onset of COVID-19 that got the team to turn to the technology and start introducing software robots into the workflow of doctors and nurses.
The pandemic placed an increased administrative strain on the Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) department at Mater Hospital in Dublin. To combat the problem and ensure that nurses could spend more time with their patients and less time on admin, the IPC deployed its first software robots in March 2020.
The IPC at Mater plans to continue using robots to manage data around drug resistant microbes such as MRSA once the COVID-19 crisis subsides.
What tasks do they perform?
In the IPC at Mater Hospital, software robots have taken the task of reporting COVID-19 test results. Pre-automation, the process created during the 2003 SARS outbreak required a clinician to log into the laboratory system, extract a disease code and then manually enter the results into a data platform. This was hugely time consuming, taking up to three hours of a nurse’s day.
UiPath software robots are now responsible for this task. They process the data in a fraction of the time, distributing patient results in minutes and consequently freeing up to 18 hours of each IPC nurse’s time each week, and up to 936 hours over the course of a year. As a result, the healthcare professionals can spend more time caring for their patients and less time on repetitive tasks and admin work.
Is there any possibility of error with software robots, compared to humans?
By nature, humans are prone to make mistakes, especially when working under pressure, under strict deadlines and while handling a large volume of data while performing repetitive tasks.
Once taught the process, software robots, on the other hand, will follow the same steps every time without the risk of the inevitable human error. Simply speaking, robots can perform data-intensive tasks more quickly and accurately than humans can.
Which members of staff benefit the most, and what can they do with the time saved?
In the case of Mater Hospital, the IPC unit has adopted a robot for every nurse approach. This means that every nurse in the department has access to a robot to help reduce the burden of their admin work. Rather than spending time entering test results, they can focus on the work that requires their human ingenuity, empathy and skill – taking care of their patients.
In other sectors, the story is no different. Every job will have some repetitive nature to it. Whether that be a finance department processing thousands of invoices a day or simply having to send one daily email. If a task is repetitive and data-intensive, the chances are that a software robot can help. Just like with the nurses in the IPC, these employees can then focus on handling exceptions and on work that requires decision making or creativity - the work that people enjoy doing.
How can software robots most benefit healthcare providers both during a pandemic and beyond?
When the COVID-19 outbreak hit, software robots were deployed to lessen the administrative strain healthcare professionals were facing and give them more time to care for an increased number of patients. With hospitals around the world at capacity, every moment with a patient counted.
Now, the NHS and other healthcare providers face a huge backlog of routine surgeries and procedures following cancellations during the pandemic. In the UK alone, 5 million people are waiting for treatment and it’s estimated that this could cause 6,400 excess deaths by the end of next year if the problem isn’t rectified.
Many healthcare organisations have now acquired the skills needed to deploy automation, therefore it will be easier for them to build more robots to respond to the backlog going forwards. Software robots that had been processing registrations at COVID test sites, for example, could now be taught how to schedule procedures, process patient details or even manage procurement and recruitment to help streamline the processes associated with the backlog. The possibilities are vast.
The technology, however, should not be considered a short-term, tactical and reactive solution that can be deployed in times of crisis. Automation has the power to solve systematic problems that healthcare providers face year-round. Hospital managers should consider the wider challenge of dealing with endless repetitive work that saps the energy of professionals and turns attention away from patient care and discuss how investing in a long-term automation project could help alleviate these issues.
How widely adopted is this technology in healthcare at the moment?
Automation was being used in healthcare around the world before the pandemic, but the COVID-19 outbreak has certainly accelerated the trend.
Automation’s reach is wide. From the NHS Shared Business Service in the UK to the Cleveland Clinic in the US and healthcare organisations in the likes of Norway, India and Canada, we see a huge range of healthcare providers deploying automation technology.
Many healthcare providers, however, are still in the early stages of their journeys or are just discovering automation’s potential because of the pandemic. I expect to see the deployment of software robots in healthcare grow over the coming years as its benefits continue to be realised globally.
How do you see this technology evolving in the future?
If one thing is certain, it’s that the technology will continue to evolve and grow over time – and I believe there will come a point in time when all processes that can be automated, will be automated. This is known as the fully automated enterprise.
By joining all automation projects into one enterprise-wide effort, the healthcare industry can tap into the full benefits of the technology. This will involve software robots becoming increasingly intelligent in order to reach and improve more processes. Integrating the capabilities of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning into automation, for example, will allow providers to reach non-rule-based processes too.
We are already seeing steps towards this being taken by NHS Shared Business Service, for example. The organisation, which provides non-clinical services to around two-thirds of all NHS provider trusts and every clinical commissioning organisation in the UK, is working to create an entire eco-system of robots. It believes that no automation should be looked at in isolation, but rather the technology should stretch across departments and functions. As such, inefficiencies in the care pathway can be significantly reduced, saving healthcare providers a substantial amount of time and money.