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Tips on selling mobile health devices when buyers fear theft

Stephanie Baum

Thefts of portable digital health devices, like smartphones and tablets, accounted for half of data breaches in 2011. That kind of mobility is hurting the adoption of mobile health products.

Russell Dollinger has been working on strategies around the problem. Dollinger’s California startup Ingenuitor, which produces books and digital devices to overcome language barriers in hospital settings and medical situations, had a customer back off a mobile purchase over fears of device theft.

“We present our software to hospitals on carts and portable units,” Dollinger said. “One COO wanted portable devices. The next time we presented to the same hospital, the previous COO had left and the new one said, ‘We have to have a cart-based device.’ It was the same place, but the attitude changed because they were concerned about theft.”

Mobile is a better solution for hospitals in some cases because healthcare facilities often have diverse systems — some prefer desk-based solutions but others want or need remote access. But hefty fines for data security breaches, tougher HIPAA regulations passed by the Clinton administration and added penalties for noncompliance can make healthcare buyers squeamish.

So how do you get past the fears of theft? Dollinger has tried these approaches:

Ask how the hospital is addressing theft. “First, the hospital needs to have processes that limit theft, and second, if theft does happen, they have to make sure that nothing sensitive is endangered. That can be done not only by preventing data from residing on a device that can be stolen, but also by encryption techniques.”

Ask core questions. “I would say to other startups who encounter fears over data breaches they should ask: ‘What is the customer’s biggest problem? What do they want? Do those two things align? What is the corporate culture at that hospital? Each situation will probably be unique and will be determined by a myriad of factors.”

“However, there is a trend towards more digital and more mobile healthcare. There is also a growing problem with theft and security. Over time there will be solutions created that enhance the use of mobile devices while limiting the attendant problems.”

The customer knows best. “Each hospital and the people that run them have spent and are spending a lot of time deciding which solution will best allow them to provide quick, quality care for a low price while maintaining security.”

Dollinger points out that technology has been around for awhile to make portable devices less portable — creating hybrid devices that can be locked into place and unfastened at the end of the day. Another solution could be to make the devices part of the hospital equipment that can be read on a bedframe, for example.

“Maybe the solution is to make portable devices non-portable,” Dollinger mused.

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