January 26, 2012, 2:06 PM — The bring-your-own device strategy has been embraced by businesses because staffers are walking into offices toting tablets and sophisticated handsets.
But is it the right strategy for a hospital, with its expectation for controlling sensitive patient data?
Opinion was mixed Wednesday at the opening of a two-day mobile healthcare conference in Toronto for medical IT personnel.
On one side was speaker Todd Richardson, CIO of Deaconess Health System of Indiana, who dismissed attendees who told him of their policies that forbid non-approved wireless devices on their networks.
"We're going to lose that battle," he told the conference because of pressure from staff. BOYD isn't going away, he said, and with proper procedures security can be ensured.
On the other side was Dr. Khaled El Emam, Canada research chair at the Electronic Health Information Laboratory and associate professor at the University of Ottawa's faculty of medicine, who talked at length about the risks of unsecured wireless devices.
"We haven't lost the battle yet" over BYOD, he said.
While a number of topics were discussed during the day, the conference often turned back to whether hospitals should provide wireless devices for staff to ensure security or open the doors and set up policies to protect data.
Medical and even administrative staff want to use their own devices on a hospital's network for a number of reasons, including trying to cut down on paper and not wanting to carry separate personal and work units. Some like tablets or smart phones because they're not tied to a desk.
But it can be expensive to pay for devices -- especially if they're large tablets. Ottawa Hospital is covering the tab for 3,000 of Apple Corp.'s iPads for doctors and nurses -- plus spent $8 million for custom software so their users can input data directly to its electronic health records system.
On the other hand there are advantages, noted Dale Potter, vice-president and CIO of the institution.
"If you want to have predictable population of people (using tablets or handsets) and enforce this so it becomes part of the workflow, you don't have a choice but to purchase them." BYOD, he said, means devices "dribble in an uncontrolled way."