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Rugged laptops and tablets keep information secure in the field

Is it ethical to give emergency responders access to medical information in the field?


By Michael Cayes

Mooring Tech, Inc.

This article is provided by Mooring Tech, Inc. and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of EMS1.

In the old days, which for some EMS departments was last year, all reports were completed and distributed on paper. Paper, though useful for making small airplanes and free throw practice in the nearest garbage can, is headed the way of the 8-track in terms of its use in vehicles. With paper, there is a large and stringent set of protocols in place to keep patient information safe and protect departments from committing HIPAA violations. As response teams transition over to digital reporting, and fight for deeper access to patient records in a pre-hospital setting, there is a new set of protocols being developed. Is it ethical to give emergency responders access to medical information in the field? Is it possible to create a connection that is secure enough to transmit that information.

The answer is yes. Tablets and laptops are increasingly common in the field for data collection and transfer. One such line of tablets and laptops are the ToughPad and ToughBook line by Panasonic. Sold by Mooring Tech, the ToughPad comes in five iterations with a host of customizable accessories and the choice of an Android or Windows platform. ToughPads are strong enough to survive in the field, and secure enough to hold sensitive patient information. The ToughPad FG-Z1, for example, is customizable with several physical and digital security features. The most basic of these is a Kensington lock compatible slot in the side of the tablet, to prevent it from being taken from its mount in an emergency vehicle.  There is also a barcode reading accessory that can be attached to the tablet that will read ID badges to grant access.

Even with physical security measures, there are still questions about the security of data passed from the hospital or dispatch to responders in the field, and vice versa. Panasonic created all of their rugged products with public service employees and sensitive data in mind. That is why ToughPads and ToughBooks come standard with the ability to create a hard disk password, a Computrace theft protection agent in BIOS, and a trusted platform module (TPM) security chip. The hard disk password, when set, is required every time the computer is booted up. Without it, the user will not be able to access anything on the hard drive. However, the password does not encrypt any of the data contained on the hard drive. This is where the TPM security chip becomes useful. These chips perform several functions: the most common and relevant are encryption, password storage, and authentication. In the event that software on the device is attacked, the TPM chip will kick in and lock down the hard drive until the issue is resolved. If the device is stolen, the Computrace theft protection agent allows the user to track the tablet and geolocate it; in the meantime, if necessary, data can be wiped from the tablet remotely. These features of the versatile ToughPad are just a few of many that are swaying more and more departments towards digital data entry and away from the paper of the past.

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