Personal Smartphones: A Ticking HIPAA/HITECH Time Bomb?

by BakerHostetler
Contact

In this brave new world of health information privacy, many industry experts and healthcare organizations have emphasized the need to secure portable electronic devices such as laptops, issued to employees. But a recently published survey conducted by Cisco mConcierge appears to indicate that personal smartphones, increasingly used by employees for work purposes as part of "Bring Your Own Device" (BYOD) programs, may present a more significant privacy threat than previously thought.

According to the survey, 89 percent of healthcare workers use their personal smartphones for work purposes -- a higher percentage than all other industries surveyed except for education and technology. But 41 percent of these healthcare workers don't use a password to secure their personal device. Additionally, 53 percent reported accessing unsecured wi-fi networks using their personal smartphone, and 48 percent either hadn't disabled Bluetooth discoverable mode or didn't know if their device was discoverable. And if a security issue were to arise, 86 percent of workers said their employers would be unable to remotely wipe data from their personal smartphone. Considering how easily smartphones can be used to receive and transmit large volumes of electronic protected health information (ePHI) and how often personal smartphones are lost or stolen, healthcare organizations that utilize BYOD programs without adopting appropriate security measures could be creating a serious privacy risk.

Recommendations

  • Evaluate personal smartphone risks as part of your organization's risk analysis. Under the Security Rule, covered entities must conduct an accurate and thorough assessment of the potential risks and vulnerabilities to the confidentiality, integrity and availability of ePHI. Recent comments by Leon Rodriguez, Director of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights (OCR), indicate that deficiencies in an organization's risk analysis will be a top enforcement priority under OCR's upcoming Compliance Audit program, set to begin in October, 2013. If a covered entity utilizes a BYOD program, its risk analysis should evaluate the personal mobile device security issues identified in the survey, such as the risk of loss, theft or unauthorized access to ePHI stored on a personal device.
  • Require encryption for personal smartphones used as part of a BYOD program. Under the Security Rule's Transmission Security standard, covered entities must implement technical security measures to guard against unauthorized access to ePHI transmitted over an electronic communications network (such as a cell phone network). To meet this standard, covered entities are required to either implement encryption for personal mobile devices if reasonable and appropriate or, if encryption is not reasonable and appropriate, select an alternative and justify the decision through appropriate documentation.
  • Mandate password protection as a prerequisite for participation in a BYOD program. Requiring passwords as a prerequisite for participating in a BYOD program is a simple and inexpensive way to encourage protection for personal smartphones in lieu of encryption.
  • Require installation of remote wiping software and/or lost phone location apps. Requiring employees in BYOD programs to install remote wiping software and lost phone location apps on their smartphones can help protect against unauthorized access to data.
  • Educate and train employees on smartphone security issues and strategies to prevent loss or theft. The survey shows that many workers may not be fully aware of the security risks presented by unsecured wi-fi networks and Bluetooth discoverability. Providing basic workforce education and training on the common risks associated with personal smartphone use for work purposes, as well as basic security safeguards that users can implement to protect work information stored on smartphones, is a simple and cost-effective way to help prevent a serious data security incident.

OCR's Compliance Audit program is scheduled to begin in October, 2013, and covered entities that have not conducted an appropriate risk analysis and/or implemented appropriate security measures to address BYOD program risks may be risking potential liability. If you are concerned about your organization's BYOD program, risk analysis, encryption policy, OCR's upcoming Compliance Audit program or related issues, please contact Lynn Sessions, lsessions@bakerlaw.com or 713.646.1352; or Theodore J. Kobus III, tkobus@bakerlaw.com or 212.271.1504.

Written by:

BakerHostetler
Contact
more
less

BakerHostetler on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):
hide

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.

Security

JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at info@jdsupra.com. In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at: info@jdsupra.com.

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.