Simple concepts may lead to greater mHealth security

Dartmouth College is already taking advantage of a $10 million fund from the National Science Foundation created to help innovators develop better ways of protecting mHealth devices and mobile patient data.

Researchers at the New Hampshire college have created a device that can help ease security worry related to wireless device network configuration. The device is a "magic wand" that works within the Wi-Fi environment, and also has the capability to work with other protocols, such as Bluetooth.

The Dartmouth tool, dubbed Wanda, illustrates how sometimes just working with what you have and keeping it simple can drive terrific innovation.

Wanda is a compelling mHealth data security device as it solves a big hurdle: getting consumers to secure devices at home and making the process quick and painless. 

"A great deal of research suggests people will circumvent or avoid security if it is too onerous," research team member Timothy J. Pierson, a doctoral student, tells FierceMobileHealthcare in an interview. "We were looking to provide a solution that is secure, easy to use, and fast--even for people who are not tech-savvy."

Pierson says that earlier approaches in mobile data security often took other routes--including layering on new and different technologies, which often makes security configuration more cumbersome.

"My impression is that historically people haven't paid much attention to information security, but recent news about large data breaches, especially in healthcare, has gotten people's attention," he says. "The problem is that while people may be paying more attention, many are confused about how to actually employ technology to make their data more secure. We think that making security technology easier to use is an important first step."

I agree that it is an important first step, and a very encouraging one. Security worries regarding mobile device data have the power to keep consumers, doctors and payers from embracing innovative tools and technology--but the more innovation there is in this field, the greater the chance such worries will subside. - Judy (@JudyMottl and @FierceHealthIT)