BYOD & Mobility: What Can Healthcare Learn From Enterprise?

BYOD – A Prescription for Healthcare

Enterprise executives made BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) a buzz-acronym nearly 10 years ago when they started showing up at work with a BlackBerry in hand. IT teams voiced their objections, but the productivity gains and convenience gained compelled executives to respond by saying, “I’m not giving this thing up. Figure it out.”

Today’s healthcare professionals are following in the footsteps of enterprise executives, using their preferred tablets, smartphones and other mobile devices to improve clinical communications, share photographs and lab data and interact with electronic health records (EHRs). BYOD is creating the same integration challenges for healthcare IT teams that early mobile device adopters did, primarily because:

  1. Security is so important, yet mobile access to EHRs and other data is essential to making the best diagnoses and treatment decisions.
  2. Multi-platform integration of key software applications challenges developers, yet forcing someone to carry one device for professional use and another for personal use has historically proved impractical.
  3. Reimbursement can be a contentious subject, adding a new line item to expense reports and a new factor in attracting and retaining top talent.
  4. Healthcare CIOs are inexperienced in formulating, implementing and updating policies.

Look to the Past to Shape the Future

There are more similarities between the business of healthcare and private enterprise than ever before, forged by the Affordable Care Act and 21st century economics. Consequently, what IT teams and providers learned building enterprise solutions over the last decade is a great foundation for healthcare. Responding to the executive edict “figure it out,” the state of BYOD in the enterprise has reached new heights and insight:

  1. Security in enterprise is stronger than ever. Security defaults in applications, SSL encryption, two-factor log-ins and the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) have enabled highly secure access to data and new levels of device protection. Containerization is now a reality, thanks to smart devices getting smarter. But more than that, network providers have vastly improved network security and data protection in virtual environments, starting at the firewall. 
  2. Application standardization is simply not going to happen; developers need to accept the pain and work around it. With multiple platforms available and a plethora of devices to use, creating and sustaining a workflow that accommodates most devices cannot rely on device standardization. A Nashville Hospital pilot in which doctors, nurses and other practitioners use a variety of personal and hospital-issued smartphones and tablets is showing how real-time communication and data access can improve productivity. 
  3. Money is always going to be part of any discussion. Brent Lang, president and COO of Vocera, remarks: “In some cases reimbursement is justified and in others it is not. If there’s an expectation in an organization that you’re going to always be reachable and accessible as part of a critical workflow, then the organization is going to provide that device.” Better patient outcomes carry more weight when it comes to healthcare decisions. Healthcare organizations will negotiate this issue, which is essential as the new generation of physicians, nurses, radiologists, etc. – smart people who like the newest, coolest technologies – come into the workforce. HR departments will align what they set as performance expectations with the preferences of Gen X and Gen Y, just as enterprises have done to woo the best and brightest.
  4. We learn as we go. According to HIMSS Analytics Mobile Technology Survey, just more than half of providers – some 59 percent – report they had a mobile plan in place; 29 percent said they were in the process of putting one together. Healthcare BYOD policies will evolve with each generation and each institution’s needs.

Does the Device Matter?

Gartner predicts that, by 2017, half of employers will require employees to supply their own device for work purposes. For the record, that’s within enterprise environments. But, what’s telling is that IT teams are learning to deal with myriad end points, regardless of the device operating system. Their focus can shift to the networks, security and developing device-agnostic applications that sit in the Cloud.

Healthcare professionals are saying, “My work is better with these tools. I’m not giving them up.” BYOD as a tool for healthcare is growing in popularity and the security challenges combined with HIPAA compliance requirements increase the complexity for already stretched healthcare IT organizations. Leveraging technology partners to help develop a strategy can ease the pain and make BYOD a reality.