Avoid a Mobile Meltdown: 11 Eye Care App Safety Tips

In our last post, we talked about mobile eye care apps you can use to make your day easier, your patients happier, and your staff more efficient. So are you ready to start downloading? Not so fast.

You’re understandably excited at the potential of mobile medical apps to help you in every area of your ophthalmology or optometry practice. But if you’re not strategic about how mobile devices are used in your practice, you could land in hot water—that includes costly fines and damage to your practice’s reputation.

Take Advantage of Eye Care Apps—Safely

Verbal communication, texting, downloading, taking photos, and using social media are all liability hotspots, especially when it comes to HIPAA and cybersecurity, according to Deborah Stinchcomb, MBA, BSN, RN, CASC, and William A. Miller, Esq., who spoke about mobile device liability at last year’s annual meeting of the Ambulatory Surgical Center Association. Use of public wi-fi or unsecure cellular networks may expose ePHI, because data is not typically encrypted on a mobile devices wi-fi connection, they explain. In addition to educating your staff about proper use of mobile devices,  Stinchcomb and Miller offer these tips for staying safe:

  • Choose apps that are HIPAA-compliant in order to protect patient ePHI.
  • If you suggest an app to your patients, do a HIPAA risk assessment to ensure compliance.
  • Perform periodic risk assessments of mobile device use in your practice.
  • Use a secure texting platform, like miSecureMessages. “Most texting applications do not meet HIPAA requirements for data encryption and protection,” says Stinchcomb.
  • Keep an inventory of mobile devices used within your practice to access and transmit ePHI.
  • Do not store patient information on your phone. Theft of a mobile device is one of the most common security breaches.
  • Install RFID tags to help locate devices in the case of loss or theft, and know how to utilize remote shut down tools.
  • Ensure that all mobile devices require a strong password or biometric authentication (fingerprint) to unlock.
  • If using a device to record, be careful of picking up unrelated audio, images, or video
  • Consider using practice-provided devices that contain pre-installed, job-specific functions and apps.
  • Clean devices regularly according to manufacturers’ instructions. Smartphones are a breeding ground for bacteria.

Beware: App Quality Isn’t Always APParent

Literally anyone with coding skills can create an app, so just because an app is in the App Store doesn’t mean it’s high quality—or even safe. Apps may simply not work well, or could provide inaccurate information. Apps targeted at the medical community may or may not have may have been created with input from actual physicians or healthcare professionals.

Not only that, but not all medical apps have been cleared or approved by the FDA. The FDA currently regulates only those mobile medical apps that “are intended to be used as an accessory to a regulated medical device or transform a mobile platform into a regulated medical device.” The FDA’s focus is on apps that could pose a risk to patients in the event that those apps don’t work as intended. So for many apps, FDA clearance isn’t required, but you can view a list of mobile medical apps that have been cleared or approved by the FDA at https://www.fda.gov/MedicalDevices/DigitalHealth/MobileMedicalApplications/ucm368784.htm


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