Critical Issues In Managing Point of Care Devices

Today, healthcare CIOs must support a wider array of point of care devices than ever before, including intelligent mobile workstations, WOWs (Workstations on Wheels), wall-mounted screens, thin-client devices and a wide array of devices brought by their clinicians, including the iPad, healthcare-specific tablets and smartphones.

While it may be simpler to rely on solutions that easily fit your security and support needs, you’re going to have to support a wide range of devices whether you like it or not. The following are some critical issues to consider when planning your point of care/mobile device support strategy.

The Mobile Workstation

Mobile based workstations are still the most popular hospital mobile device.  Since mobile workstations are hands free, they won’t be placed on dirty laundry or near sinks which could create infection-control or tech support problems.  Mobile workstations also allow clinicians to do data entry more effectively than mobile devices, whose screens may be far too small and lack a full keyboard which can impact the quality of the documentation.  Furthermore, mobile workstations support your standard IT security requirements.

For all of these reasons, mobile workstations will continue their popularity in hospital IT for clinical documentation, bedside charting, and barcode applications.  The key question hospital IT administrators should make is to choose the right mobility solution that works well with future tablets, smartphones and other mobile apps.

Personal mobile devices

Doctors are bringing their own mobile devices to the office. How do you prevent personal devices from compromising network security?

Some hospitals are banning the use of personal mobile devices on the network.  In other cases, doctors are forbidden to use clinical apps on their personal devices. Others offer hospital-owned mobile devices.

The challenge is that doctors don’t want to carry a separate device for hospital work. Plus, how do you control and enforce use of personal mobile devices in the hospital? Given the security risks, a policy around personal mobile devices is a must.

iPhone/iPad support

According to one estimate, 75 percent of U.S. physicians have purchased an Apple mobile device, and 38 percent plan to buy an iPad this year.

Unfortunately, Apple products don’t address enterprise-level security issues as effectively as Windows-based devices. Historically, both the iPhone and iPad have had serious security problems, as well as Apple technologies like Quick Time and Safari.  They are after all consumer devices, not enterprise devices.

Bottom line, it’s critical that your security policy address specific iOS vulnerabilities and make sure doctors are aware of that policy.

Mobile app limitations 

If your organization manages its own fleet of Android or Apple devices, you face a separate set of concerns, particularly if you’re hoping to offer reliable access to your EMR. At present, there are very few native iOS or Android apps available to support health IT functions.

Citrix and other remote desktop services help solve some of the security issues, but aren’t usable on tablets and smartphones. Physicians aren’t likely to be happy with the results.  Mobile devices without usable clinical applications become toys for the providers as they shift back to other point of care options for clinical work.

Conclusion

Eventually, mobile devices and locked-down technologies like wall units and mobile workstations are going to merge and improve in interesting ways that will leave many mobile device concerns behind. However, until then the mobile workstation will be the predominate clinical device while other mobile device will continue as mostly communication devices.

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