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Hospitals Struggle To Get Users On Board With Mobile Policies

Posted on August 6, 2018 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

A new survey has found that hospitals are having a hard time managing and tracking user compliance with mobile communications policies.

The survey, which was conducted in early 2018 by communications vendor Spok, collected information on mobile device communications strategies from approximately 300 healthcare professionals. Forty-four percent of respondents were clinicians, 10% were IT and telecom staff, 6% were executive leaders, and another 40% had a wide variety of healthcare roles.

Spok found that hospitals who do have a mobile strategy in place have had one for a long time, with 42% having had such a strategy for either 3 to 5 years or more than five years. Another 46% have had a formal mobile strategy for one to three years. Only 12% have had a strategy in place for one year or less.

Reasons they cited for creating mobile device strategies included the launch of a communication initiative (46%); a clinical initiative (25%); or a technology initiative (24%). Five percent of responses were “other.” Top areas of focus for these strategies included mobile management and security (56%), mobile device selection (52%) and integration with the EHR (48%).

Other reasons for mobile initiatives included clinical workflow evaluation (43%), device ownership strategy/BYOD (34%), mobile apps strategy (29%), mobile app catalog (16%), mobile strategy governance (14%) and business intelligence and reporting strategy (12%).

However, there’s little agreement as to which hospital department should monitor compliance. Forty-three percent of respondents said the security team was monitoring policies for the hospital or system, 43% rely on a telecommunications team, 43% said a clinical informatics team played that role, and 26% had monitoring done by a mobile team. Twenty-one percent said individual departments enforce mobile policies and 9% said they don’t have an enforcement method in place. Another 9% of responses fell into the “other” category.

Given the degree to which monitoring varies between institutions, it’s little wonder to learn that policies aren’t enforced effectively in many cases. On the one hand, 39% respondents said the policies were enforced extremely well most of the time, and one-third said they were enforced well most the time. However, 4% said the policies were being enforced poorly and inconsistently, and 44% said they are not sure about how well the policies are being enforced.

Hospitals are aware of this problem, though, and many are taking steps to ensure that users understand and comply with mobile policies. According to the survey, 48% offer educational programs on the subject, 42% use technology or data gathered from devices to measure and track compliance, 37% leverage direct feedback from users and 23% use surveys.

Still, 21% said they don’t have a way to validate compliance — which suggests that hospitals have a lot more work to do.

Mobile Policy Enforcement Issues Could Expose Hospitals To Security Problems

Posted on June 15, 2018 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

Over the last several years, mobile device management has become a critical issue for hospital IT departments. As mobile use by both clinicians and patients has soared, hospitals have been scrambling to keep up. Now, a new study suggests that the policies hospitals develop to manage mobile devices are enforced inconsistently, a finding which should concern hospital leaders.

To perform the study, which was backed by mobile communications firm Spok, researchers collected responses from roughly 300 healthcare professionals from across the U.S. The survey reached not only IT leaders but also clinicians, who made up 44% of respondents. Another 40% included a wide range of professions, including pharmacists, medical technicians, business analysts, social workers and lab managers. IT respondents made up just 10% of those surveyed.

One of the results of the survey was that hospitals vary widely in the maturity of their mobile management strategies and their ability to execute them.

Certainly, the mobile management concerns have become a bigger deal over the last several years. Back in 2012, when Spok first asked survey participants about their mobile approach, only a third said that they had a formal strategy in place. By 2017, though, the number of respondents reporting that they had a mobile strategy had climbed to 65%. (That number actually fell to 57% in 2018, for reasons that are unclear.)

That being said, these strategies are relatively new. Forty-six percent of respondents said their organization had a mobile strategy in place for one to three years, and another 12% reported having a formal mobile management strategy for just one year.

The most common mobile strategy was focused on mobile management and security (56%), followed by mobile device selection, integration with the EMR (48%), infrastructure assessment (45%), clinical workflow evaluation (43%), device ownership strategy e.g. BYOD (34%), mobile app strategy (29%), mobile app catalog (16%), mobile strategy governance (14%) and business intelligence and reporting (12%).

Hospital leaders are continuing to rebuild their strategies as needed. Many hospitals have upgraded their mobile strategy over time, for reasons that included better meeting the needs of end users (39%), changes in clinical workflows (28%)  and addressing security and compliance requirements (25%).

Despite all of this effort, however, there seems to be a gap between mobile strategy development and the extent to which mobile strategies are enforced and understood by hospital staff. While 43% of hospitals have security teams, telecommunications teams or clinical informatics teams enforce mobile policies, many hospitals are struggling to give these rules some teeth.

True, 39% of respondents said that their hospital enforced mobile policies extremely well, and on a consistent basis, and another 33% said they were enforced well most of the time, and another 24% said they were not sure. This suggests that those institutions aren’t educating employees and clinicians about these issues, nor are they getting tough about enforcement. And of course, if hospital clinicians and staff don’t even know whether a strategy is in place, they’re probably not following it.

Mobility Strategy Becoming More Important To Hospitals

Posted on October 7, 2016 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

An annual study of healthcare mobility has found that hospitals may be at a tipping point when it comes to mobile strategy. The study also suggests that hospitals are struggling with Wi-Fi coverage and BYOD issues, but when you add on the fact that mobile EHR access is maturing, you still have a picture in which mobile is playing a rapidly-expanding role.

Spok’s fifth-annual Mobility in Healthcare Survey, which gathered 550 responses in July of this year, found that the number of hospitals reporting having a documented mobility strategy has almost doubled since year one. Specifically, 63% of respondents said that they had a documented strategy in place, a huge shift from 2012, when only 34% of respondents had such a strategy.

Another interesting piece of data derived from the study is that the roles of those involved in forming mobile strategy have shifted meaningfully between 2014 and 2016.

For example, the number of respondents saying IT helped or would help drive mobile strategy changes fell 12 points, while those who said nurses were involved climbed 12 points. The number of respondents said doctors and consultants were involved climbed 9 points, and clinical leadership eight points. The greatest change was the role of nurses, whose current or planned involvement climbed 69% in absolute terms.

Mobile strategies emerging
When respondents that did not have a documented mobile strategy in place were asked why, 31% told Spok that they were in the process of developing such a strategy, 30% didn’t know, 17% said they had a verbal strategy in place which had not been written down or documented and 15% said budget constraints were holding them back.

Another notable set of data collected by Spok focused on which devices the respondent’s hospital was supporting. The fact that 78% percent supported smartphones was no big surprise, but it was a bit unexpected to find that 71% of hospital respondents support in-house pages. (I guess they’re like faxes — some technologies just won’t die!) Wi-Fi phones were supported by 69% of respondents, wide area pagers 57%, tablets 52%, voice badges 20% and smart watches/wearables 8%.

Meanwhile, among the key shifts in support for devices is that Wi-Fi phone and voice badge support were up 24% and 18% respectively in absolute terms. It’s also worth noting that support for smart watches/wearables has climbed to 8% near zero just last year. Clearly these are categories to watch.

Wi-Fi, BYOD challenges
As part of the support discussion, respondents also answered questions about Wi-Fi coverage, and the results highlighted some serious issues. In particular, while 83% of respondents said that their Wi-Fi connection is business-critical, they didn’t seem to feel in complete control of it.

More than half (54%) of respondents said they saw Wi-Fi coverage as a challenge, and 65% said they believed that there were some areas of poor coverage within their hospital. Other mobile device support challenges cited by respondents include data security (43%), user compliance with mobility, BYOD and EMM policies and procedures (39%) and IT support for users (37%).

Meanwhile, BYOD support and policies continue to be a contentious issue for hospitals. Nineteen percent of survey respondents said that their organizations hadn’t created any sort of BYOD program, an 8-point drop from 2015. The proportion of facilities with some type of a BYOD program also fell, from 73% to 58%, though – exercising survey options available for the first time – 5% said they were planning for BYOD and 18% said they didn’t know what was up on this front.

When asked why they chose to allow BYOD programs to exist, 60% of respondents said cost savings was a factor, 50% care team communication, and 46% said both physician demand and workflow time savings for users were important reasons. On the flip side, eighty-one percent of respondents said security issues were the primary reason they didn’t allow BYOD.

Building A Successful Hospital Mobile Strategy

Posted on August 20, 2013 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

Hospital leaders know that having a mobile strategy in place has become a necessity. Doing so not only accommodates physicians’ and nurses’ mobile workstyles, it leverages tablets and smartphones in a manner which makes hospital communication and EMR use more effective.

The thing is, making a mobile strategy work is far more complicated than simply giving caregivers with mobile devices and wishing them luck, notes Trey Lauderdale, founder and president of mobile communications firm Voalte. In a recent piece for the HIT Consultant blog, Lauderdale argues that there are a few key steps hospital CIOs need to take if their mobile initiatives are going to be successful. These include:

Assess and  prepare your infrastructure

Before you roll out a major mobile initiative, it’s critical to make sure both your physical and digital infrastructure can handle a new flood of mobile device traffic, Lauderdale says. Bear in mind that your Wi-Fi network will need to handle data, text and voice transmission on a level it hasn’t before, and what’s more, that this demand is likely to change and grow. You’re also going to need to figure out how to integrate mobile devices with alarms management middleware.

*Plan for deploying your smartphones

As you think through the nuts and bolts of handing out smartphones, be aware than you’ll need to see to their day-to-day functioning, Lauderdale points out. For example, you’ll need battery cases to protect the phones and keep them charged shift-long, and screen shields to  protect against accidents, and possibly a custom holster to help nurses work comfortably with phones. You’ll also need to decide whether smartphones will be shared or assigned to specific caregivers, and how you’ll store and charge them when they’re not being used.

Manage and update smartphones

With caregivers using smartphones as an official work device, you’ll then need to implement a mobile device management strategy, an approach which allows you to download apps to phones, update operating systems and make repairs when necessary. You will also want to include mobile devices in your security strategy, for functions such as password protection, lockout protocols and provisioning access, Lauderdale says.

Not every healthcare organization is ready to invest in its own stock of smartphones or tablets. Many are still struggling to implement a BYOD strategy that meets the institution’s needs without asking doctors and nurses to check their personal device at the door. But if you’re ready to supply and control mobile devices, Lauderdale’s suggestions make sense.

iOS App For Hospitals Snares $20M In VC Funding

Posted on January 10, 2013 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

As we’ve reported previously, nurses are as fond of mobile technology as doctors, with large numbers bringing their own devices in for day-to-day communication at work. Maybe that’s why a new app — dubbed “Yammer for hospital staffers” by GigaOm — is getting so much money and attention.

The app, PatientTouch for the iPod Touch, has already been rolled out to 65 hospitals across the country, GigaOm reports. And today, maker PatientSafe announced that it had received $20M in funding for Merck. That brings its total amount raised to an eye-popping $50 million. That’s gotta be some kind of record for health apps, even in the red-hot clinical communication app space.

As GigaOm describes it, PatientTouch’s core functions allow nurses to collect basic  It’s also offering souped-up communications. Not only does it offer Yammer-like person to person chat, that chat also can be integrated directly into EMRs. (The story doesn’t say exactly how this wonderfulness happens, or whether, say, it works with a leader like Epic or Cerner or Meditech.)

But that’s not all. PatientTouch also comes with a “jacket” for the Touch which protects it from unsanitary conditions and fluids, preserves battery life, and more intriguingly, includes a bar-code scanner.

The understandably proud CEO of PatientSafety, Joe Condurso, told GigaOm that on any given day, 7,000 PatientSafe-equipped Touches are in use.

I can see why the VCs and Merck are so excited by PatientTouch. It’s based on a very cheap yet powerful platform, offers (what I’ll assume is) secure communication between providers without the BYOD mess and integrates with EMRs, yet. What’s not to like?

All that being said, I can’t see a solution like this one as more than a bridge. Sure, it’s great that it’s helping nurses communicate via a better channel than random BYOD-driven text and e-mail until EMR makers create their own mobile front ends. But personally, I hope the need for a transitional solution like this doesn’t last long.  It’s long overdue for the big EMR vendors to create robust mobile front ends of their own that integrate directly into their platform. Enough foot dragging, already!

Hospital Aren’t Supporting Nursing Smartphones

Posted on December 11, 2012 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

Here’s one more example of where Bring Your Own Device is causing security problems for hospitals. A new report by Spyglass Consulting Group suggests that while most nurse use personal smartphones on the job, few hospital IT departments support these devices.

According to Spyglass, 69 percent of hospitals said that their nurses use personal mobile devices, often to fill in gaps left by the technology the hospital provides for communication. This is no surprise. While there’s an armada of personal nursing devices which allow nurses to communicate with other staffers, smartphones do a better job, as they’re light, boast an easy to use interface and unlike VoWiFi devices, unaffected by local network ups and downs.

It’s worth noting that 25 percent of care providers interviewed by Spyglass weren’t happy with the quality and reliability of the wireless network within their facilities.  That’s further evidence that VoIP devices commonly used for nursing communication aren’t riding on a solid base.

So, nurses are driven to use the smartphones they bring in from home.  Those phones become the basis for mission-critical communications around day-to-day care. But at the risk of repeating myself — OK, I’ve already repeated myself often on this subject — these unsupported, vulnerable devices can be hacked or stolen quite easily. If a phone is left in a public area, not only are nurses deprived of a critical communications channel, the e-mail or texts or voicemails they’ve sent regarding patient care has just walked off as well, offering bunch of private data in the clear. Plus, there are free solutions to this communications, privacy and security problem like docBeat that are much much more functional than what’s on the nurses’ personal devices anyway.

According to the Spyglass researchers, who conducted 100+ interviews with nurses working in acute care, hospital IT personnel are concerned about the increasing dependence of clinicians on personal mobile devices.  But I note that at least in the report summary written up by Healthcare IT News, you don’t hear about a stampede of hospital IT departments rushing to establish support policies and deploy enterprise-class mobile management tools. I must say, I’m not sure what they’re waiting for.