The iPad Versus the Healthcare Industry: Security and Biometrics

The modern tablet has countless benefits for healthcare. Among them, Internet connectivity, interactive touch displays, and easy portability are some of the first that come to mind. With Apple’s introduction, over the past few years, of a fingerprint biometric scanner into their line of iPads, it might seem that the iPad is making a place for itself in the healthcare world. And for those of you working in healthcare outside of a hospital setting, that may even be true.

For hospitals and other medical facilities, however, the iPad’s rise is somewhat of an illusion, at least for now. Though the iPad provides some useful functionality for clinicians and other healthcare workers, it lacks many useful, if not crucial, features found in medical grade tablets like those of Cybernet’s CyberMed medical grade tablet line. Of these differences in features, some of the most substantial include:

  • No Antimicrobial Housing
  • Lack of Waterproofing
  • No Integrated Barcode Scanner
  • Consumer-grade Materials
  • Lack of Dedicated Medical Tools and Applications

 

Perhaps the most significant difference of all is the level of security each type of tablet provides. For a medical professional, the security of patient data and other sensitive information is critical. To ensure security, medical grade tablets offer a slew of proven and cutting-edge options. In this sense, the iPad’s adoption of a biometric security tool is a step in the right direction in terms of healthcare usability, though it’s still many steps away from becoming an acceptable medical tool.

Why Biometrics?

The value of biometric security in healthcare is in its usability. The convenience of technology like the fingerprint scanner is undeniable, especially compared to its older alternative: manual password input.

Passwords are not only difficult to input in a medical setting, but create a variety of other problems, from sanitary issues to the logistical problem of remembering and keeping track of, in many cases, over five unique passwords. In addition, these passwords should be, ideally, not written down, but remembered. The fact that passwords must be changed frequently to preserve their integrity only adds to the confusion.

In contrast to the many problems passwords present, biometric security allows near instantaneous access, without involving the user’s memory whatsoever. When this ease of use means even a slight increase in peace of mind in an already hectic environment, or time saved in situations where time may be of the essence, the difference is striking.

Apple’s Fingerprint Scanner

From point-of-view of view an average commercial consumer, Apple’s introduction of fingerprint scanning technology is cutting-edge. For healthcare professionals, however, the bar is already set much higher, with companies such as Imprivata actively developing medical grade fingerprint scanning technology.

Naturally, there is a significant difference between the security needed for a regular phone or tablet and that needed for a device containing sensitive patient information and access to prescription capabilities. A variety of detailed and purposefully crafted legislation exists with regards to technology standards and prescription medication, which Apple’s fingerprint scanner fails to satisfy all-around.

The ability for iPad users to enroll and re-enroll fingerprints also problematizes their use in a medical space. The true identity of the person operating the device becomes impossible to verify as users are able to re-enroll others’ fingerprints as their own. The fingerprint can then, essentially, belong to anyone, an issue which, for obvious reasons, invalidates the security benefit the fingerprint scanner initially provides.

Solutions to the identity problem exist in the form of third-party validated federated identities, but this feature should not be expected from Apple soon, if ever. Medical grade tablets, on the other hand, have the capability to provide all of these security features, in line with legislation, and many more.

RFID Reader and the Smart Card Reader

In addition to fingerprint scanning biometric technology, medical grade tablets, like those offered by Cybernet, also come with added security measures. If, for whatever reason, you are not able or not willing to use fingerprint scanning, or prefer to have added layers of protection, the RFID Reader and the Smart Card Reader technologies will suit your needs.

Both of these options provide lightning fast, low contact security solutions. Like the fingerprint scanner, these options replace the impracticality of passwords, and allow additional functionality in medical contexts. When wearing gloves, for example, the RFID Reader, which does not require the use of exposed hands, can ensure that authorized personnel are able to quickly access pertinent data, without compromising safety. The Smart Card reader provides similar functionality, though the applications extend far beyond these.

Overall, the iPad’s inferiority to medical grade tablets is unsurprising. The daily tablet use of regular consumers, whether in work or entertainment, differs greatly from that of on-the-job healthcare workers. And while Apple continues to dominate the consumer tablet market, Cybernet continues to develop tablets that cater beautifully to all of medicine’s needs.

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