ONC calls for comments on mobile devices

March 9, 2012 in Medical Technology

WASHINGTON – The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology is seeking public comments on privacy and security issues and best practices related to the use of mobile devices in healthcare settings.

The ONC has opened a public comment period until March 30, after which it is expected to convene a mobile devices roundtable.

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The ONC is seeking comments on three categories:

  1. Real-world uses of mobile devices by providers and other healthcare delivery professionals;
  2. Real-world privacy and security practices, strategies and technology; and
  3. Any other comment on the use of mobile devices by providers and other healthcare delivery professionals.

“For the purpose of this request for public input, a mobile device is a handheld transmitting device with multi-functional capabilities used to store, transmit and receive health information and has user control over the access to the health information,” the ONC wrote. “Mobile devices combine elements of computing, telephone/fax, Internet and networking functions. This generally includes laptop computers, personal digital assistants (PDA), smartphones and tablet computers. Mobile transmitting devices generally do not include storage devices such as USB drives.”

The Privacy Security Mobile Device project was launched in January by the ONC’s Office of the Chief Privacy Officer, working with the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights.

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According to an ONC press release at that time, the goal of the project is to develop “an effective and practical way to bring awareness and understanding to those in the clinical sector to help them better secure and protect health information while using mobile devices (e.g., laptops, tablets and smartphones).” Building on existing HIPAA guidelines, it would identify privacy and security good practices for mobile devices that can be disseminated to healthcare providers and others in the field.

HHS officials have been monitoring the fast-growing mHealth environment for the past five years, including playing an active role in the annual mHealth Summit in Washington D.C. As part of its mHealth Initiative, the department launched the Text4Health Task Force to develop text messaging and mobile health programs and identify projects that would deliver health information and resources to people through mobile phones.

[See also: CMS enlists Text4Baby to connect pregnant women to coverage]

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