As you know, Venture Pointe is a provider of technology support within the healthcare industry throughout the state of Florida and beyond. In as much we certainly are noticing specific trends in how healthcare services are being managed and offered within the community.
A couple of the larger issues that we see healthcare providers struggling with are:
- Remote/Field Management of technology – meaning the growing use of iPads or iPad type devices in the field (mobile devices). Be it the rapidly growing industry of in-home health care providers or the new world of remote care and accessibility to doctors supporting their patients.
Several primary issues for thought: remote device management, user training and information security. We have spoken at length regarding data security over the last few issues, so we will leave that alone for now. Other than to say, the use of remote devices does have a direct correlation to the increase in the use of personal devices, which of course opens the door to a litany of HIPPA concerns.
What most providers do not really understand ahead of taking this step is the ability to those persons using the devices and their understanding of how? The presumption is “everyone knows how to use an iPad”, well that could not be further from the truth. A mobile device such as those react and process information very differently than a typical laptop and certainly a desktop. So just because Jim got everything done quickly using his laptop, does not automatically equate to Jim being a mobile device power user.
We have found basic user training “before” distribution will gain you much efficiency once in the field. This training should include basic education on how the device reacts in the field, remote connectivity issues, email connectivity and syncing and of course security. On average we see roughly a 20% drop in field user productivity the first few weeks following any deployment. So as an organization, you should be prepared for this and the impact on your patients. Appropriate education of those field users and outlined communication on trouble shooting or basic skill training, greatly reduces that loss in productivity.
Also, as an organization, you should be thinking about device security and remote management. Real world example: we recently had new client come on board with our services. They already had mobile devices in the field and honestly had been having pretty good luck using them. The problem was, they had no remote management software to manage the devices. So, what’s the big deal?
Well during the initial conversations with the field staff, there were more than a couple of users who said, “I lost that device weeks ago, just been using my own laptop”. What!? They never even reported from the field that they had lost their device? Think about the data, the patient images, the communications, the access, just left laying someplace. Don’t even get us started on the other problem that you have had a personal device connecting to your network and the correlating HIPPA issues.
Your technology partner should be talking with you about remote device management. This is software that allows you to restrict usage for your devices, protect the device from corruption, provide the ability to lock and clean lost or stolen devices, even track usage of them by a thief. Venture Pointe recently was able to assist local law enforcement in finding and arresting some folks that had broken into a medical office and stolen several laptops and mobile devices. Literally we could see the name, location and even what the thief was doing on the device. We contacted the local police, gave them the address of where the device was, the name of the person logged in and other information, that allowed them to go to that location and apprehend the thief.
Think of things like; what happens if the employee resigns, the device is stolen, lost, not returned following resignation/termination and yes even sold. The utilization of this type of software gives you the ability to lock the device so that no one can use it, wipe the device, so no one can take data from the device, track the device, and of course patch manage or communication manage each device. Some even provide a messaging capability groomed for your specific announcements to your remote workers.
- Connectivity in the field – meaning how the end user connects to applications, your office or the internet while working remotely.
The biggest issue is a basic one; simply being able to connect to the internet. The very largest issues under this silo; free WIFI connectivity. While this can be restricted by device, and we highly recommend this action. You never want to connect these mobile devices to “any” open internet source. Examples of this are coffee shops, retail establishments, travel centers etc. We find that a lot of field workers will complete their route, then go to a coffee shop or restaurant and enter their notes etc. Nothing wrong with the practice, just don’t allow open connections to those public networks. You do not know who else is on the network, believe me a very high percentage of these networks have people just sitting on them waiting for a new device to grab data from. Also, be careful of “charging stations” plugging in that USB cable to a charging port, in essence opens the door to that device. Use your own charger and bring your own internet.
The easiest way to combat this issue is to restrict unsecure network connectivity and ensure that each employee has some form of a “hot spot” connectivity which is secure to their device. This can be accomplished by ensuring you have hot spot capability within your mobile phone plans or are providing each employee a specific hot spot device they can use anywhere in the field. Lastly, don’t cheap out on your mobile service, go with national services, not local or cut-rate services that significantly throttle their speeds.
Also, your provider should be able to provide secure Virtual Private Network (VPN) alternatives. These allow a secure connection between that device and your network. This is a very good practice to follow. But does require well documented steps for connectivity and trouble shooting to the end user though, so please don’t leave your operators hanging with no knowledge as to how to utilize these connections.
We would be more than happy to speak with you further about how to manage your technology, provide training or simply review your current environment to gain you even more confidence in what you presently have in place. Venture Pointe provides all of those services for free, just give us a call.