Secure mobile healthcare? There’s an app for that

Security is a critical issue in developing mobile healthcare applications, but experts say it can be solved without compromising user experience.

“With the right tools, you can deliver a better security posture that is easier to use than traditional user names and passwords,” said Shri Kalyanasundaram, Head of Digital Identity for TELUS at a recent ITWC webinar.

The opportunity to use mobile applications to improve the delivery of healthcare is significant, said Kalyanasundaram. It’s expected that mobile penetration will reach 80 per cent by 2022, and the majority of the time Canadians spend on their smartphone is on applications.Transform Client Interactions with Digital Onboarding and eSignatures[/relevant]

Although consumer demand for mobile healthcare apps is strong, less than two per cent of patients say they’ve been engaged by hospitals using mobile applications, he said.

An app to cure billing headaches

The process for filing physician billing claims was painful, especially for doctors on the move, says Dr. Jeremy Theal, a gastroenterologist and Chief Medical Information Officer at Toronto community hospital. It was a manual, paper-based process with a high risk of error. Theal recalls one incident where a doctor left his billing cards in his pants pocket and put them in the laundry. “It was literally money down the drain.”

Theal partnered with IDENTOS, which provides services in Canada through TELUS, to design a secure mobile billing application that would be easy for doctors to use. “The goal should be an app that anyone can pick up and use with no training,” said Theal.

The billing app, Agent+, fits with a physician’s workflow. Doctors can use their phones to take a picture of the patient’s chart label which automatically enters the patient’s identification information into the system. Smart logic compares the data against the Ontario schedule of benefits to check for errors. The data is encrypted in transit and on the phone so sensitive patient information is always protected, even if the device is lost. Physicians can access the app offline using their PIN, which saves time because of the number of wireless dead zones in hospitals.

The result is that a doctor can now submit a billing claim in less than 30 seconds.

Engaging users early and throughout the development process was the key to success, said Theal. “If you’re developing an app for mobile, talk to your users and listen to them. How you solve their problems is the secret sauce for successful mobile apps,” he said.

How to get mobile

Balancing user experience and security can be a challenge during the design process, said Mike Cook, CEO at IDENTOS. The first step is to develop a strategy based on long-term goals. Like Theal, Cook stressed that a “constant cycle of user feedback is going to pay dividends.”

The basic elements of a good mobile application are a trusted source of digital identity, a means to protect the data and the ability to conduct secure applications, said Cook. Although it can be more costly, he recommends developing native apps, rather than a web-based or hybrid approach. “With native apps, the user experience is second to none,” said Cook. “Those are the apps that you find most addictive on your phone because of the rich functionality.”

Cook added that working with a knowledgeable partner can be a significant advantage. “You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. It’s important because a secure user experience is something you can’t afford to get wrong.”

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Cindy Baker
Cindy Baker
Cindy Baker has over 20 years of experience in IT-related fields in the public and private sectors, as a lawyer and strategic advisor. She is a former broadcast journalist, currently working as a consultant, freelance writer and editor.

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