5 Tips to Keep Tablets Safe in Your Clinic – Part 1: Preventing Theft

How do you keep tablets safe? How often are they stolen? How do you keep them clean and sanitized?

Tablet-lock2Of all the questions we get asked, the one that comes up again and again is, how can you keep a mobile device protected in a healthcare setting? Concerns about theft and damage to tablets are usually first, followed by worries about keeping tablets sanitized to prevent the spread of germs. Today, we’ll share five quick tips to help secure your mobile devices in the waiting room or the exam room; we’ll get to the issue of sanitizing tablets in a follow up post.

Lets start with the good news. In our experience over the course of tens of thousands of patient encounters (in settings ranging from student health services to paediatric and methadone clinics), theft has quite simply not been an issue. As hard as it may be to believe, we have yet to see a tablet walk away in the hands of a patient.

This continues to surprise the physicians and clinic staff we talk to. Many of them deal with theft of small office items on a regular basis. The idea that a useful, easily portable device like a tablet could remain safe is hard to believe. However, we believe that by taking a few simple steps, your healthcare organizations can effectively deter theft from waiting rooms and exam rooms. Even more importantly, by following the steps here, you can rest assured that your data and your patient data will always remain safe.

Here are the top five tips we provide to our customers to keep their tablets safe and sound in the office.

1. Use inexpensive hardware.

First and foremost, we recommend our clinics use inexpensive Android tablets, and lock down all features other than OceanWave. A $100 Android tablet with no apparent apps or internet access is going to draw a lot less interest than a fully-equipped Samsung or iPad.

2. Have a clear tablet “sign out” process and let your patients know the tablet is secured.

In many cases, a simple notice that the mobile device is equipped with security features is enough to prevent it from “walking away”. In OceanWave, you can customize the welcome notice on the tablet to let patients know that the tablet is temporarily assigned to their patient record and request that they return it to the nurse or receptionist once their forms are completed. We also recommend presenting a demographic reconciliation screen on the tablet before any other forms. By presenting the patient’s contact information on the screen, it’s very clear that the tablet is connected to that patient and staff would know who took it if it disappeared. The demographic reconciliation screen has the added benefit of keeping your patient contact records up to date.

Depending on the patient population, some of our clinics add an additional security measure by asking patients to provide their health card in exchange for the tablet. Their health card is returned when the tablet is handed back to the nurse or receptionist.

3. Never store personal information, passwords, or credentials on the tablet.

The reality is that there is no way to guarantee that a tablet won’t go missing. In the event that a tablet were to disappear, you can protect your organization (and limit the loss to the cost of the hardware) by ensuring that absolutely no personal data is stored on the device. This includes email log-ins, passwords, or other credentials. Even associating the tablet to the Google app store can present a risk; as a result, we recommend that the tablet be limited to use for OceanWave only.

4. Never store patient data or access to patient data on the tablet.

The cost of a replacement tablet is trivial compared to the cost of handling a breach of patient privacy and the potential liability of not doing proper diligence should such a breach occur. That’s why you should never store patient data on a tablet — only data associated with the current patient should be on the tablet and there should be no way to go “back” to the previous patient’s responses. That includes the browser cache if you are using a web browser on the tablet.

You also need to be aware of any system/security credentials that might be cached without your knowledge on a mobile device. For example, using a web browser on a tablet to connect to your EMR may allow your patient to search your patient database with something as simple as the browser back button

5. Consider physical locks like kiosks or anti-theft cases.

If you are still concerned about keeping your tablets safe from theft after taking the steps listed above, you can add a physical lock to the device. Both kiosk stands and anti-theft cases can provide an added level of security, and are readily available online. Companies like padholdr.com, maclocks.ca, and tabletenclosure.com provide various stands and lockable kiosk solutions. You can also look for universal tablet lock kits like this one or this one.

That’s it! If you follow the steps above, you can rest assured that your tablets and data will be well protected. If you have other tablet security suggestions, we’d love to hear them!