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Mobile Medical Apps Come With Risk, Researchers Say

January 21, 2014
by Rajiv Leventhal
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The lack of governance and regulatory guidelines relating to the use of mobile devices in medical workplaces is a significant concern when it comes to clinical care, according to a recent study by researchers at Australia's Monash University.

Published in the European Journal of ePractice, Monash University researchers and senior lecturers raised concerns around the use of smartphones, tablets, and software apps in the healthcare sector. “While mobile devices provide many benefits to medical, nursing and allied health practitioners and their patients, mobile digital technologies in healthcare also has identifiable disadvantages and risks,” Jennifer Lindley, senior lecturer in the Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences at Monash University, said in a press release from the university.

Some of the benefits of mHealth include more convenient access to patient records through mobility of devices, improved communication between health professionals as well as improved efficiency and decision making. However, according to the authors, the potential risks included infrastructure constraints such as bandwidth availability, distracters including e-mail alerts and advertising banners, and privacy and security issues.

“On mobile devices, icon badges, notifications, ‘pop-up’ alerts and constant availability of e-mails and internet access lead to distraction,” said Dr. Jaunita Fernando, also of Monash University. “Privacy and security issues in healthcare contexts are of particular concern to all stakeholders because of the sensitive nature of the data stored on the many mobile devices,” Fernando added.

Fernando said best practice use of mHealth needed to be incorporated into the education of healthcare professionals, and curricula needs to provide the appropriate knowledge, skills and attitudes for future professional practice. 

More than a third of physicians and almost three-quarters of nurses use medical apps on smartphones daily for work purposes according to the World Health Organization.

Read the source article at Monash University

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