Feb 08 2024
Digital Workspace

How to Choose the Right Devices for Your Hospital Fleet

When selecting new mobile devices for clinical use, health IT teams must consider cost, workflow and security.

Mobile devices are indispensable to effective clinical collaboration and healthcare delivery. They enable real-time and remote generation of patient data, time and information management, communication across care teams, and clinical decision-making support. Unsurprisingly, over 90 percent of physicians own smartphones, and over 80 percent use them in clinical practice. 

“In today’s digital-forward healthcare environment, mobile devices are essential to helping healthcare organizations work more efficiently and providing patients with improved experiences through secure, easily manageable, streamlined workflows,” says Trevor Smith, head of business development for Samsung’s Healthcare Mobile B2B team.

Clinicians can use a single device to handle many tasks, including electronic health records access, virtual patient consultations, and remote patient and equipment monitoring, he says. 

Dr. Joel Klein, senior vice president and CIO of the University of Maryland Medical System, agrees, adding that mobile devices have completely transformed medicine. It doesn’t matter whether clinicians work in a single-provider office or a quaternary-level intensive care unit.

“With all the contacts and data that they need at their fingertips, clinicians can get the help and information to treat patients effectively, efficiently and — when necessary — remotely. This integrated approach streamlines healthcare delivery, enhancing both provider performance and patient care,” Smith notes.

As healthcare organizations constantly evolve, so do the tools that they work with. Mobile device catalogs must therefore be updated to ensure that they work efficiently in the changing healthcare landscape. Here’s what health IT leaders should know about choosing the most secure, functional and cost-effective mobile devices for their organizations.

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What to Look for When Considering New Devices in Healthcare

According to Smith, “an effective mobile device strategy should be rooted in improving every stage of the patient journey, from when they first enter the hospital parking lot to using bedside patient engagement for education and entertainment, then seamlessly transferring and managing care after a patient is discharged.”

When introducing new devices into a hospital, it is essential to evaluate how much they benefit the hospital’s primary stakeholders: patients. Klein recommends prioritizing team needs by considering existing and future workflows, frequently used applications for clinical work, and other real-life benefits.

“Device requirements should start with the teams who need the devices,” he says.  Smith adds that “mobile devices should arm organizations with a better way to streamline clinician workflow and reduce IT costs. Smart hospitals can consolidate various functionalities into a single, lightweight smartphone capable of running multiple clinical applications simultaneously.” 

In addition, Klein says, consider the device’s features, benefits and limitations, then prioritize devices that best meet the healthcare organization’s needs. “Don’t get hung up on expensive processing power if all you’re running is a web-based application without horsepower,” for example. “Some platforms are a lot harder to engineer for shared use (such as phones that are checked out by nurses for use during a shift).  Some are bulky or heavy and won’t cooperate with scrub shirt pockets. Or the real-life performance of the battery doesn’t hold up,” he says.

DISCOVER: A plan for streamlining workspace and device management.

From here, teams should consider durability, patchability, and support and maintenance to ensure that the devices purchased can run for a reasonable period of time, Klein says. 

“Security is another vital aspect,” Smith says. In 2023, healthcare organizations experienced significant data breaches affecting over 88 million individuals, a 60 percent increase from the previous year, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The 2023 IBM Security Cost of a Data Breach Report found that the average cost of a healthcare data breach is $10.9 million, a 53 percent increase over 2020 numbers.

To ensure the continued and robust protection of their stakeholders’ data, organizations must identify any potential security and privacy risks associated with their device choices and select those that best align with their security measures and are most compatible with their mobile device management solutions.  

“Before deployment to clinicians, devices need to be adequately secured and preconfigured for each team member’s role. IT should consider cloud-based enterprise mobility management solutions that enable a wide range of controls and protection across all devices within the organization,” Smith says. “These can include partitioning company apps and data from personal ones; preventing hospital app access over unsecured Wi-Fi connections; requiring enforcing biometric or multifactor authentication for app access; GPS tracking of devices; and capabilities for remotely locking, wiping, and providing IT support.”

Health systems often work with a tight budgets due to the high demand for their services and the limited resources available to satisfy this demand. This makes cost efficiency another paramount factor to ensure the optimal utilization of financial resources. Consider mobile devices that offer the best value for the money and account for other costs, including implementation, maintenance and training, to guarantee that purchasing them is within the hospital’s budget.

EXPLORE: Here are four ways to improve mobile device management in healthcare.

Collaborate with Clinical and Executive Teams on Decision-Making

Introducing new devices can be a complicated process that requires the collaboration and alignment of all stakeholders, especially clinical and executive teams, for the most productive outcomes. 

According to Klein, finances are the most crucial factor to consider. 

“Device leaders must remember that capital planning is a reality and the need to extend device lifecycles is competing with other investments in IT, such as network, security and application projects, and with other operations, such as purchasing a new CT scanner, constructing a new wing or even building a new hospital,” he says. 

Klein says that teams responsible for purchasing should be responsive to finance leaders as they discuss the best estimates for device counts and timing for funding.

What to Do with Older Devices

Decommissioning devices is part of the management lifecycle, Klein says.  “If a device can’t be patched or run from a safe cybersecurity perspective with some kind of compensating control, it should be retired.”  

Klein recommends retiring older devices by wiping out any protected health information and recycling them in an environmentally responsible manner. IT asset disposition services can be a good option for healthcare organizations considering a sustainable device management strategy.

Natali_Mis / Getty Images Plus

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