Mobile devices like smartphones and tablets are now common in medical practices. But these devices also introduce new risks and challenges for securing protected health information (PHI). If you’re a healthcare professional, it’s likely you’ve accessed or shared patient data from your smartphone or tablet. Next time you do, make sure to follow these tips to secure PHI when using your smartphone.

7 tips to secure PHI when using your smartphone

1. Use a password or other user authentication

Make sure your smartphone requires a passcode or other form of authentication to unlock. This is the simplest ways to prevent people from seeing sensitive data you access on your device.

2. Install and enable encryption

Encryption secures data by converting it into a form that can’t be read without a passcode or decryption key. This is done by all kinds of applications you already use, but it’s important to confirm that any app and device you use to share PHI is encrypting that data. One of the best ways to encrypt data you send from your smartphone is to use a virtual private network (VPN).

3. Install and activate remote disabling

Remote disabling allows you to lock or erase data stored on your mobile device if it is lost or stollen. This function is easy to setup and available for iPhone as well as Android devices.

4. Research apps before downloading

Any software that handles PHI needs to be HIPAA compliant. As a provider, HIPAA compliance should be your litmus test for bringing an app in to your practice. Make sure you know what makes an mHealth app secure, and be sure to thoroughly research apps before downloading them on your smartphone.

5. Install and use security software

Most people realize the importance of having security software for your computer. But fewer realize malware can also infect smartphones and tablets. It’s important to make sure you trust third-party apps and follow best practices for mobile device security. But as a healthcare professional you should also install and use security software on your smartphone.

6. Keep your software up to date

Just like computers, mobile devices need to be patched often to eliminate software or hardware vulnerabilities after initial release. Accept all operating system and app updates immediately.

7. Only use secure WiFi networks

Mobile devices make it easy for healthcare providers to work while away from the office. But getting online at a coffee shop or airport often means connecting to a public WiFi network, which presents a risk to PHI. Learn how to identify an unsecured WiFi network and how you can protect PHI when using public WiFi.

Learn more about smartphones in healthcare on our blog, or visit HealthIT.gov for more tips and information to help you secure PHI when using your smartphone.

Apple vs. Android: Which device offers the best healthcare data security?