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Healthcare Lagging On Enterprise Mobility

Gartner says healthcare CIOs need to take immediate steps toward implementing a sound wireless and mobile device strategy.

Within the next five years, mobile phones, sensor technology, portable medical devices, and wireless health applications will play a larger role in connecting patients with their healthcare providers, yet many healthcare chief information officers haven't put plans in place to accommodate this surge, a Gartner analyst observed.

John Lovelock, a Gartner research VP covering healthcare, said in an interview there is the thought among CIOs at healthcare delivery organizations that, until they can get to one platform for support, they really can't do much about mobility. He said healthcare CIOs have to accept the need to support a heterogeneous mobile device base, and if they don't they will impede the development of a robust, nimble real-time enterprise.

"These CIOs feel that the proliferation of the number of devices, the number of operating systems, and the security weaknesses inherent in all of them would overwhelm their IT departments so they are dragging their heels," Lovelock said.

Lovelock said Gartner is coaching healthcare CIOs, telling them there is no one device that's going to bring mobility to healthcare.

"Every practitioner in healthcare is going to have their preferred form factor for delivering functionality to their job," Lovelock said. "Getting used to multiple devices and the problems with supporting multiple devices, multiple versions of them, and multiple operating systems is something that the CIO must take on," Lovelock added.

Lovelock's analysis of the current status of wireless and the use of mobile communications in healthcare delivery organizations was published in a recent Gartner report titled: The Top 9 Actions for the Healthcare Delivery Organization CIO, 2010.

The report concluded that wireless and mobility are staples of the real-time enterprise and are transforming aspects of healthcare service delivery. Many types of mobile devices are being routinely introduced into the healthcare delivery organization, and advances in mobile communication technologies and medical devices have removed many of the technical barriers to mobile health monitoring while encouraging innovation.

One aspect of the mobile device that makes it attractive for physicians is the screen size, which has a major influence on any mobile device's usefulness and adoption. Clinicians will be using a variety of options, depending on the situation, he said.

For example, a physician seeing a patient in a clinic may use a desktop system for documentation and review, but in the car on the way home, he will use an iPhone to review a lab result and change an antibiotic order. During rounds, a physician might also want a smaller device for limited review capabilities.

To push a sound wireless and mobile device strategy forward, Lovelock recommended that CIOs:

  • Focus on hiring and training efforts in the area of wireless and mobility during the next three to five years. Bandwidth management and wireless security are two areas in which to start.
  • Standardize on mobile and handheld devices as much as possible for better support, but be prepared for the introduction of user-owned devices.

  • Consolidate the various enterprise medical device private networks, whenever possible, for increased interoperability and visibility.
  • Develop wireless strategies for clinical and business workflows and constituents that can most benefit from mobility enhancements. Align the wireless and mobility strategy with clinical and patient portal strategies, as they have much in common.

  • Plan for new security, integration, and compliance issues associated with the introduction of mobility-generated healthcare information.

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