Guest post by John Moynihan, healthcare segment manager, Global Industry Marketing, Siemens Enterprise Communications and Randy Roberts, vice president, mobility portfolio, Siemens Enterprise Communications.
Technology in business today can seem like a zero-sum game. When the employees win, they are able to do whatever it takes to be productive. But doing that tends to tie the hands of IT, keeping them from locking down devices and services well enough to make sure their information is secure. This situation is becoming more common in the medical industry, with clinicians and computing staff often at odds over convenience versus security. Doctors, traditionally reluctant to adopt new technology or take any risks with tried-and-true methods for caring for their patients, have taken to mobility as a duck to water.
Because access to patient information allows them to better do their jobs, doctors in particular are quickly adopting tablets and smartphones. And while they’re not ignorant of the security risks of these devices, particularly the potential for patient information to be lost or stolen, their focus is on caring for their patients. In fact, even if their business doesn’t provide or specifically allow for mobility, they are bringing their own devices into the office.
The Challenges of BYOD
This of course can cause headaches for IT. They’re scrambling to deal with this new bring-your-own-device (BYOD) environment clinicians are creating. And with increasingly strict regulations in the healthcare industry, violations of HIPAA and other laws can have serious consequences. IT is left trying to keep the organization safe and even protect the physicians from themselves.
Not long ago, hospitals and other healthcare facilities were severely restricting the use of smart devices for work, when mobility wasn’t banned altogether. But IT has realized that not only does this stunt productivity, but it’s nearly impossible to enforce anyway. Clinical staff are finding ways to work around restrictions; it’s far more productive to find a way to give them the productivity they crave while protecting resources as much as possible.
In addition to device-level challenges are organizational impediments to effective communication systems. Hospital employees, for example, tend to work as isolated groups. Each of these groups tends research and deploy the resources that it needs, without working with other departments to ensure cross-functionality. Combined with unregulated BYOD, the end result is a lack of collaboration and potential noncompliance with industry regulations. This is particularly a problem because they are using a variety of discrete, consumer-grade solutions for communications.
Addressing the Need for Effective Communication
For several years the answer to effective mobility has been mobile device management, or MDM. This approach gives the organization control over all devices – including users’ smartphones and tablets – that connect to the corporate network. Users dislike giving that degree of control to IT for their personal devices, however, and an ever-increasing list of devices and varying needs among different business groups strains IT resources, as well.
To that end, our focus on mobility is evolving beyond simple device management, to include applications and content, as well by utilizing an Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) solution. Beginning with buy-in at the top levels of the business, this approach goes beyond managing only the device and ensures that the data itself, the most valuable asset, is secure and only the appropriate people have access to it. This allows the clinicians to use whatever device they choose and allows IT to protect the data.
Effective EMM solutions today should encompass a wide variety of functionality, delivering policy-defined access to information for employees anywhere to meet every communication need, including voice and mobility. Unified communications (UC) solutions are giving healthcare organizations greater control over how they communicate and collaborate internally, as well as improved flexibility for employees accessing resources such as patient data. This expands the reach of IT, enabling them to protect information not only on the corporate network, but wherever employees are taking their devices. It also proves less intrusive for user devices, allowing them to retain control over their personal applications and data.
Many healthcare facilities have begun adopting new technologies with mobility in mind. For example, electronic health records (EHR) solutions have become common on desktop machines, and hospitals are now looking for EHRs that will work on the smaller screens of smartphones and tablets as well. This approach needs to encompass all aspects of communication within the healthcare business through the use of UC solutions developed specifically with mobility in mind. The new approach to communications should consider the technology doctors and other staff members are using, and turn it to the advantage of the business rather than treating it as a secondary consideration.
To balance the evolving needs of the clinical staff balanced with compliance and security requirements, healthcare facilities should update their approach to mobility. They should focus on the information that needs to be protected through providing simple, streamlined EMM and UC capabilities that are managed centrally and support mobile access to whatever doctors need to do their jobs. This allows them to deliver the highest quality care for their patients without putting personal health information at risk.