04:02 PM

VA Adds iPhone, Android To Smartphone Mix

Department of Veterans Affairs is a BlackBerry-only shop no more. Staff can soon use Androids and iPhones to access email and EHR system.

14 Most Popular Government Mobile Apps
Slideshow: 14 Most Popular Government Mobile Apps
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will allow hospital clinicians and employees to use smartphones like iPhones and Android-based devices beginning Oct. 1 to access information from its electronic health records (EHR) system and other internal applications, according to CIO Roger Baker.

The move supports a trend by other federal agencies and organizations to explore the effect of employee smartphones--sometimes the device of an employee's choice--on their productivity as well as on IT costs and efficiency.

Currently, BlackBerrys are the only smartphones permitted for official use in the VA. On a briefing with reporters last week, Baker stopped short of saying whether he supports U.S. CIO Vivek Kundra's idea to allow employees to bring their own smartphones into the federal government and have them configured for security and access to agency applications, or if the VA would acquire them and hand them out.

He said is leaning toward the former because of time considerations, although it's "possible that we will have a large-scale acquisition of those kinds of products" in the future.

"The price of the end device keeps going down," Baker said. "This device is cheaper than a laptop and eventually you get to the point where you ask the question of whether you want to be in charge of buying them or you say, 'Look, you can use them, where you get them from is not my business.'"

If employees bring the devices into the department themselves, however, they will be required to sign over rights to allow VA IT staff to monitor the applications on the device, he said.

Moreover, the devices likely will not be able to store any information accessed from the Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture (VistA), the agency's decades-old EHR system, and any data used in email on the device will be encrypted, he said. The VA is currently modernizing VistA using open-source software.

And if devices are lost or stolen--two examples of ways the data breach-prone VA has leaked internal information in the past--the department will be able to wipe them clean of any data.

That said, the VA is piloting the use of an application with the handful of employees already using smartphones that allows them to store encrypted data on the devices, Baker added.

Virtual Event: Business Mobility Unleashed. Zero in on the top mobile technologies and techniques to ensure your organization thrives in the wireless world. Learn about strategies and products that offer remote user applications support, Wi-Fi management, security features, and device management. Our virtual event happens Thursday, July 14. Register now.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
InformationWeek Elite 100
InformationWeek Elite 100
Our data shows these innovators using digital technology in two key areas: providing better products and cutting costs. Almost half of them expect to introduce a new IT-led product this year, and 46% are using technology to make business processes more efficient.
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
Increasing IT Agility and Speed To Drive Business Growth
Learn about the steps you'll need to take to transform your IT operation and culture into an agile organization that supports business-driving initiatives.
Twitter Feed
InformationWeek Radio
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.