Mobile devices in hospitals – why bringing your own is best

One of the challenges for health IT mentioned at the recent NSW HealthShare Expo and at other forums is Bring Your Own Device (BYOD).

Clinicians, unlike many other professionals, work for multiple organisations and over multiple locations such as their own private practice, university/teaching roles and different hospitals. Like many customers in the consumer space they are adopting the benefits of working from and communicating though mobile devices.

US surveys highlight very high uptake rates of BYOD among physicians. One such survey by Black Book Research in the US found 89% of doctors are using smartphones and 51% using tablets. The same user group consider a mobile app to be essential (100% of those surveyed) for any new electronic health record solution.

Traditionally many institutions have simply prohibited BYOD. But avoidance is not a viable solution, as more clinicians demand the ability to use their own devices to increase productivity and convenience. Hospitals and other institutions are also vying for the best specialist consultants or visiting medical officers (VMOs).  As older clinicians reach retirement age their replacements are going to be Gen Y and younger. This generation of clinicians have grown-up with their own devices and connectivity. We all know the anecdotes around doctors taking photos of wounds and sutures and then using MMS or email to get advice from colleagues.

In light of this, organisations need to consider how to implement and accommodate BYOD rather then just ignore the situation. There are several factors to consider from an organisations standpoint:

  • Are there enough WiFi access points in the building(s) and how are these managed?
  • How are devices managed? What kind of security will users need to have?
  • Do the apps that access eMR and other sensitive programs have built-in blocking of access from other applications on a smartphone or tablet to this data?
  • Is the data accessed cached or uncached to ensure that a lost or misplaced device doesn’t contain sensitive information

At IP Health we have seen this first hand by working through these issues with clients to deliver V-Mobile. We recommend taking a consultative approach to connect key IT staff and clinicians early in the process to create workable policies.

BYOD is a trend that will be here for the long term. With the right software, this can enable clinicians to be more productive without impacting the security of patient information. The key is to design governance before any roll-out.