Tablets Seen Mitigating Security Risks

Limiting Users to View-Only Access to Vital Information
Chief Information Officer Chad Eckes is overseeing the slow phase in of iPads and iPhones at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America, which has relied heavily on laptop computers, in an effort to mitigate security risks.

As it rolls out Apple mobile devices, Cancer Treatment Centers of America, a national network of regional cancer hospitals, is limiting users to view-only access to clinical information, Eckes says.

In an interview with Information Security Media Group, Eckes points out that physicians demanded a "smaller form factor" to use when accessing clinical information at the chain's four hospitals or from home. At first, clinicians won't be able to use the devices to place an order or add to a patient's record. That's mainly because the new mobile version of the hospitals' electronic health record system, from Allscripts, does not yet offer robust data entry functionality, he says.

Cancer Treatment Centers of America took a thin-client approach to the use of laptops, and later, tablet PCs, giving users access to data and applications stored on a centralized server and generally not allowing storage of information on the devices themselves. This approach, which relies on a Citrix Systems network, helps enhance security, Eckes contends.

Hospitals across the country need to embrace the movement toward mobile devices and rest assured that security issues can be adequately addressed, he stresses. "The mobile device wave reminds a lot of us of the transition from mainframe green screen terminals to moving over to PCs," he says. "Whether we like it or not, it's coming and we need to embrace that level of change."

In the interview, Eckes also:

  • Points out that the hospitals likely will eventually accommodate the use of tablets and smart phones that run the Android system;
  • Explains why the organization chose not to accommodate personally-owned mobile devices in the initial phase;
  • Describes how the use of encryption will be expanded to new mobile devices.

As chief information officer of Cancer Treatment Centers of America, Eckes leads efforts to provide innovative technology solutions to improve patient care. Before joining the company, Eckes consulted for Ministry Healthcare, implementing the first all-digital hospital in Wisconsin. Earlier, he held senior leadership positions at insurance and consulting companies.

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