Mobile Devices Create Printing Security Challenges in Health Care

In a previous blog post, we discussed the ways the BYOD (bring your own device) movement can help nurses access medical information or respond to patients more quickly. The benefits of BYOD are many: people are more comfortable with their own devices, are able to have more control over the computing environment, and often enjoy an enhanced sense of work-life balance.

Wireless printing means that potentially sensitive data will be transmitted over the hospital network – so this data needs to be encrypted, to make it unreadable by outsiders.

Yet, BYOD also creates new challenges for the hospital IT departments that have to support all of these personal devices and ensure that software works across all four mobile operating systems (Apple, Android, Windows, and Blackberry).

These diverse devices also create security and HIPAA issues associated with mobile technology – including security challenges associated with printing. Because smartphones and tablets feel like miniature computers, hospital employees have come to expect the ability to print from them.

Wireless printing means that potentially sensitive data will be transmitted over the hospital network – so this data needs to be encrypted, to make it unreadable by outsiders. The newer wireless technologies that provide long-range connectivity make encryption especially crucial. Otherwise, anyone within range of a non-encrypted network could gain access to it and hackers could potentially capture patient data that is being wirelessly sent to a printer.

Printed pages may also be a security hazard. When employees send a file to print, they must often choose from a long list of printers to send it to. If it’s not clear which printer is the correct choice or is in closest proximity, the printed file may be left sitting at the printer for an extended period until it is picked up – making it vulnerable to being picked up or viewed by a person who is not authorized to access this data. [incl-event tag=”open”]

And finally, if the secure printing procedures dictated by the IT department seem too cumbersome, there is the problem of workarounds. A doctor or nurse may attempt to get around the secured network by emailing a file to themselves or an unauthorized party, or even storing a file on an unsecured flash drive to print at home. Workarounds can cause a data breach in any number of ways.

IT departments have a number of tools to help ensure data security on wireless networks, including encryption, passwords and passphrases, and firewalls. Nurses should realize that IT policies exist for a reason, to protect data integrity and security, and should adhere to them at all times when participating in a BYOD initiative.

And if you’re a tech-savvy nurse, have you considered specializing in informatics? Health care is in need of nurses who can analyze technologies from both the bedside and IT perspectives, to help create patient-centric tools. An online MSN degree in nursing informatics is the perfect way to improve your knowledge, skills, and value to your organization. American Sentinel University is an innovative, accredited provider of online nursing degrees.

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