Mobile adoption in the NHS has been held back until now as Android, iOS and Windows devices were not secure enough, according to an NHS IT director.
“Two or three years ago we found it hard to make sure that the security of the data encryption on devices and iPads in particular…was up to scratch,” Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust’s associate IT director Graham Softley said.
“Three years ago that wasn’t there and robust, whereas now it is built into every device,” he said at a TotalMobile panel debate last week.
Apple, Google and Microsoft all claim to encrypt files stored on the latest versions of their devices by default, in response to leaks by Edward Snowden in 2013 which revealed the extent of online surveillance by the US National Security Agency.
“It has been this journey from pure consumer devices to them becoming enterprise-ready and having the security capabilities. That is no longer an obstacle,” said TotalMobile’s CTO Gareth Tolerton, also speaking at the panel discussion.
The trust recently bought 400 iPads, 125 laptops and mobile device management software to give community nurses access to patient data out in the field, reducing the need to return to the office. The project is paid for by a £1 million grant from NHS England’s Nursing Technology Fund.
Another factor pushing trusts to start recording patient information on devices instead of paper is NHS England’s target to ‘go paperless’ by 2018, Softley explained.
“In order to become paperless we have got to be recording data electronically and this is one of the fundamental building blocks, mobile working, that allows us to record that data,” he said.
The main challenge to mobile working projects in health and social care now is not the technology but information governance, according to Nottinghamshire County Council’s service development manager Sarah Royes.
The council is handing out 2,000 Windows 8.1 tablets and 1,000 Windows Phones to community workers this year, including staff in adult and children’s social care units.
However “the most difficult bit” of the project is agreeing what is acceptable for people to access across different NHS and local government bodies, she said.
“We can’t have everybody within local government accessing everything in the health system. But at the moment there isn’t much joined up working, less than you might hope there would be. Early discharge from hospital is a classic case.
“If people are coming up to being let out of hospital we don't, as a local authority, often don't get to know about it until they are ready to go. We need to know about that earlier. It is changing the business processes to make the information flow much more quickly,” she explained.