By Ojas Rege, MobileIron
Healthcare has always been a first mover when it comes to adopting new mobile technologies, because so much of the work a healthcare worker does is intrinsically mobile. When we speak with our healthcare customers, we hear the same thing consistently: “Our physicians are leaders in their fields and they want the best tools available for patient care and for teaching. They are bringing the coolest smartphones and tablets into the hospital, and our IT staff has to figure out how to secure and support them.”
Healthcare CIOs tend as a group to be very forward thinking and see many opportunities to use mobile devices and technology as a way to enable innovation, from delivering the best patient care, to streamlining their business processes, or improving overall efficiency. However, there’s no question that mobilising an organisation can cause as many headaches as it purports to solve. We asked several healthcare CIOs what keeps them up at night. Here is a list of their bogeymen.
Managing platform diversity
Five years ago, the most popular mobile operating systems were BlackBerry, Windows Mobile and Palm. Now it’s iOS, Android and BlackBerry. A year from now, it’s likely that list will have changed again.
In the laptop world, IT deals with one operating system that goes through a revolution every three to five years. In the mobile world, IT has to deal with multiple operating systems that have few similarities and change in popularity and version every six to nine months. And that’s just the platforms.
There are also multiple devices with different security settings and management capabilities. IT has no idea what is going to jump out of the mobility closet, delighting consumers but wreaking chaos is the enterprise.
The key is to ensure that any device that has access to corporate resources such as email, Wi-Fi or virtual private network can be blocked if the device should be lost or compromised in any way, and to make sure that any security action can be taken immediately.
Supporting personally owned devices
The ‘bring your own device’ (BYOD) movement is rapidly gaining momentum and in general it brings a lot of good things with it. Organisations don’t have to take on the cost of purchasing new devices and people can choose the device they like using, which improves their productivity.
However, in healthcare, there are some unique complications because most physicians own their own devices and operate across multiple hospitals. Late at night, healthcare CIOs toss and turn worrying about the challenges of supporting personally-owned devices.
The first concern is regulatory compliance and ensuring that patient data is secure. The second is having a way to be able to secure the professional data while leaving the personal data untouched. If a doctor leaves a hospital, IT needs to be able to remove the professional data, but has no business touching any of the doctor’s personal contacts, photos, videos or other personal information. If it’s an especially bad night, they tremble with the fear of the legal liability that is hiding under their bed.
Strategy for mobile applications
There has been an explosion of mobile apps in the consumer world and this momentum is sweeping into the enterprise and sparking a wave of mobile app innovation. Healthcare CIOs wake up in a cold sweat certain that app development is going on all across the organisation and they know nothing about it.
The scary thing is that in most cases they are right. Departments are using mobile apps that can help them do their jobs better, without going through IT. In some cases they are even building their own. CIOs need to have a mechanism such as a private enterprise app storefront to centralise the deployment, discovery and management of mobile apps.
Staying ahead of the mobile curve
The last big thing we hear from healthcare CIOs is that mobile is moving so fast they can’t keep up. Whether that’s the introduction of new devices or operating systems; witness Mozilla’s announcement that it is developing an operating system to compete with iOS, Android and all the others.
Enterprise mobility is a rollercoaster and healthcare CIOs have been running at full speed to keep up with the pace and innovation of their businesses. No sooner do they figure out how to support iOS, then Android shows up. By the time they have an approach for Android they turn around and there are mobile apps springing up everywhere. The challenge is to enable the organisation to go faster while ensuring that security and compliance are in place to give ¬innovation free reign.
So what needs to happen for CIOs to finally get a good night’s sleep? The good news is that there are answers for all these problems. There are new technologies for mobile management and security, applications development, and enterprise app storefronts. Best practices are beginning to emerge and policies for things like BYOD are becoming increasingly standard.