EMR / EHR and Mobile Devices - are they Safe?

Accessing EMR data via mobile devices is gaining popularity, at least in theory. I have seen almost every EMR inquiry include a question - 'does it support tablet/ipad/iphone/smartphone/android' or some version of this. In a latest study reported by FierceMobileHealthcare, they say 'these (mobile) apps can be unsafe in a clinical setting'.

While this study focuses on CIOs and hospital environments, it is easy to say this does not or may not apply to a small clinic in an ambulatory setting. Not necessarily true.

Let me play this scenario and you will see what I mean.

You are using a tablet in the exam room and you get called to another exam room. You immediately rush there, but forgot to take your tablet with you. Now, you've exposed all PHI to breach. Breach does not necessarily mean someone stealing data, or a device, although this has been reported commonly.

You can argue that this can happen even if you have a regular desktop and you walk away without logging out or locking the computer. The fact is, tablets and mobile devices are more fascinating, more accessible to patients and others.

Of course, there are other reasons why you don't want to use tablets and mobile devices in the exam room, such as smaller screen, not easy to 'create' content - even if it is point and click. In reality, all charting is a combination of point-click, typing and dictation (e.g. Dragon). There is no single method that is most efficient for data entry.

Therefore, in conclusion, I feel mobile devices are ok in a private setting such as your private office or home where accessing data is important, but definitely in an exam room, I would use tremendous caution; perhaps avoid them altogether.