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Mobile device storage and security within the NHS

What comes to mind when you think about the risks associated with a digitised NHS and digital health in general? Perhaps it’s the risk of remote attacks on databases and networks critical in life or death situations? Maybe it’s the threat to patient privacy and confidentiality if healthcare records can be accessed by hackers? Yes, these are major problems that need to be tackled practically and culturally, but there is another issue here amid the discourse on digital health: the storage and security of the mobile devices that act as the mediator between the physical and the digital. In this blog, we’re going to take a look at mobile device storage and mobile device security and why it is so important in the context of the NHS.

The number of mobile devices used within the NHS is growing

We might have some way to go before our national health service is fully digitised – when tablets have completely out-competed clipboards – but there are already plenty of signs of progress towards a more efficient and less admin-heavy NHS. A paper published in the British Journal of Community Nursing in 2014 found that mobile devices did actually contribute to both productivity and efficiency, with clinical staff also claiming that these devices helped them deliver better patient care. In the same year, the North Devon Healthcare NHS Trust received £400,000 towards buying Samsung Galaxy tablets to be used by nursing staff in the 18 hospitals the trust manages.

Even outside of the NHS’ move to more digital ways of operating, doctors and nurses are already using mobile devices at work

Outside of the mobile devices officially introduced by the NHS, doctors and nurses use their personal mobile devices on a daily basis to assist them in their clinical work. A paper released last year in the BMJ Innovations journal, published findings from a survey that showed that “92.6% of the doctors and 53.2% of nurses found their smartphone to be ‘very useful’ or ‘useful’ in helping them to perform their clinical duties”. The study also showed that SMS, app-based messaging and picture messaging were commonly used (more by doctors than nurses) to help them share patient-related clinical information.

A device that’s stored properly will work properly and have a longer lifetime

With potentially hundreds of thousands of mobile devices like laptops and tablets being used throughout hospitals and healthcare centres across the United Kingdom, a robust and thorough mobile device storage strategy needs to be put in place. These devices are not only valuable due to their hardware, but owing to the data contained within them – sensitive data about patient health, health records and prescriptions. As well as taking stringent measures to protect the data on the devices, the devices need a physical storage unit to guarantee their longevity: a device that isn’t stored properly is far more likely to break down at an inopportune moment.

Both the data on the devices and the devices themselves need to be protected with security measures

I mentioned the need to protect the information contained on tablets and laptops in the previous paragraph. Security is another incredibly important aspect of any mobile device storage plan. If in future, every clinician in the NHS has access to a mobile device they can use for their work, we’re talking about millions upon millions of pounds of electronic equipment. Even today there is a considerable sum of money locked away in these devices. The fact that these devices are mobile is both a blessing and a curse – they’re easy to use, but also easy to steal. Adequate – in nature and in numbers – storage facilities need to be provided to any NHS facility that uses mobile devices.

For every healthcare situation, there needs to be a storage unit that suits it

We might keep our own electronic equipment in nothing more than a memory foam pouch, but devices used in healthcare need something a little sturdier – and something which is ideally suited to a healthcare environment. That said, not all healthcare environments are the same. The mobile device storage unit you’d need on a hospital ward differs from one which simply lives on a nurses station. And what about if multiple types of devices need storage, syncing and charging? There needs to be a storage solution for that too. And above all, any storage unit needs to be utterly secure and easy to keep sterile.

The full list of considerations around mobile device management (MDM) can’t be contained in a single blog post: if you’d like to learn more about how to manage mobile devices in a healthcare context, download our guide: Mobile Device Management in the NHS: What you need to know.

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