While most hospitals’ IT priorities presently reside in achieving meaningful use and getting up to speed with ICD-10 (even though both have been moving deadline targets), there is another issue which is important to not only CIOs but to healthcare providers: having a strategy for mobile technologies. The following do not constitute a comprehensive list, but represent five general areas which deserve consideration.
1) Always having the patient as the beneficiary of the technology. Adoption of technology, even if it benefits others including healthcare providers, should ultimately benefit patients in some regard. This might be convenience (certainly one determinant of patient satisfaction), cost, benefit to a caregiver or direct outcome benefit. A patient might benefit if the technology is a cost-effective logistics or billing technology. It need not be directly related to patient care.
2) A commitment to an overall long-term IT strategy must be a priority. Going mobile without a full commitment to IT in general will not succeed as either a strategic plan or technology initiative. Connectivity of mobile technologies with EHRs and other mobile technologies, easy usability within existing IT platforms, and adaptability for future IT considerations are critical. Hospitals which have full-time CIOs with the support of CEOs will fare better at adopting a mobile strategy than those who have an EHR with limited connectivity capability and IT support.
3) An institutional policy or technology which addresses BYOD. The BYOD (bring your own device) issue has been discussed in previous posts. It is one of the pillars of a hospital’s mobile strategy. 85% of hospitals support the use of personal for use at work, according to a 2011 survey by Aruba Networks. Efforts like app privacy guidelines by the Future of Privacy Forum and the Center for Democracy and Technology and technical and security certification standards by Happtique’s health and fitness app certification program will contribute to security issues surrounding BYOD.
4) Deal with companies which offer comprehensive mobile solutions, not single products. Connectivity with EHRs, multiple mobile products and other IT operations tools is essential. These are the products which will be useful in the long-term and will be most beneficial to more IT-dependent entities such as ACOs. These companies have the hospital’s best interests in mind and are in it for the long haul. They realize the importance of a broad-based IT solution for patient care as well as the ability to plan for future technologies. Expansion of mobile to off-site partnering institutions and patients’ homes will be a critical part of mobile technologies. Hospitals and vendors not preparing for this will spend unnecessary resources patching up and retrofitting technologies.
5) Involvement of key clinical leadership is imperative for success. Clinical input is essential when developing a mobile strategy. Clinical leaders are invaluable in evaluating relative value of technologies. They can help assist in the roll out and training of personnel, participate in on-site testing and post-purchase surveillance, quality control and efficiency evaluations. A CIO who has a strong clinical background can be invaluable in interacting with these clinical leaders and in discussing mobile solutions with the CIO and CFO. Mobile solutions may be understood better by clinicians (CMO or CMIO) than CIOs and thus might be considered a stronger point of contact when approaching an institution. This, of course, will be highly variable and depend upon the clinical strengths of the CIO.
While mobility might not be a high priority of a hospital today, it is such in many institutions. The technology in some instances has outpaced the strategy and in other instances, the strategy might have outpaced the technology. The variability of IT expertise, mobility strategy as a priority and business planning provides a challenge for vendors of mobility solutions. I have mentioned some of the issues that hospitals themselves need to consider when pursuing such a strategy.