What is Driving the Use of Risky Workarounds in Healthcare?

In my last blog, I discussed the extent to which healthcare workers are doing workarounds to get their jobs done, using personal smartphones, tablets, laptops, USB keys, apps, email, texting, social media and others. Workarounds are out of compliance with policy and drive increased risk to confidentiality which can lead to breach, as well as risk to the integrity of the patient record since data in such workarounds often doesn’t get updated in the patient record.

An example of a workaround could be a healthcare worker texting sensitive healthcare data to a co-worker. A global survey of frontline healthcare workers completed this past January by HIMSS and Intel, with 674 respondents, revealed that more than half of respondents use workarounds either every day, or sometimes.

Why is this occurring? To measure drivers compelling healthcare workers to use workarounds, we posed the following question in the recent survey: “What factors motivate the use of workarounds in your organization?” Here’s what came back:

-45 percent of healthcare workers responding to the survey indicated that they use workarounds because they are simply easier to use. They indicated room for improvement in the usability of healthcare solutions and security around them.

-40 percent indicated their IT departments were too slow to enable new technologies.

-22 percent indicated the list of approved apps is too restricted, suggesting that if healthcare IT departments are perceived as being too slow in enabling new technologies, or too restrictive with approved technologies, then healthcare workers can bypass them with workarounds that are increasingly available to them.

-36 percent indicated that there are too many layers of login required, pointing to the need for single sign on technologies, and authentication methods that are more user friendly such as those using proximity tokens and biometrics.

-24 percent of healthcare workers responding to the survey indicated that workarounds help deliver better care, suggesting a decision by healthcare workers to waive the risks of workarounds in light of the benefits of improved care.

Many other drivers were measured in the survey including web browser and thin client challenges with network availability / performance, 2-factor authentication, slow encryption, and so forth.

What factors do you see in your healthcare organization compelling the use of workarounds?

Stay tuned for more information in my weekly blog series. Next week we’ll look at the specific methods being used by healthcare worker to do workarounds.

We’ll be releasing these survey results in a whitepaper at HIMSS 2013. If you will be at HIMSS13 in New Orleans, join us for a workshop panel to explore this concept further. RSVP and reserve your spot.