BYOD and finger smudges on the line between home and work

By Adam Bazer
10:54 AM

Uber-CIO and all-around renaissance man (ex. 1, 23) John Halamka gave a truly enlightening keynote at the November HIMSS Virtual Conference, available On Demand through the end of January.  He spoke about the general regulatory environment for healthcare CIOs, and the industry, in general. 

One part of his outstanding presentation focused on the financial and behavioral realities he and Beth Israel Deaconess face around securing health data in the age of employees’ iPads, and their ilk, muscling their way into the health system’s network. 

While John is as endearing and personable as they come, I could detect the slight hint of resigned exasperation in his voice, the one that I hear in the voices of all IT department warriors, a tone I believe comes from dealing with the worst of all computer glitches, user error.  As John put it bluntly in his keynote address, “We may not procure a device, but we are accountable for it.”

He described an experience that highlights, for me, larger ramifications for the societal and professional mores we all are actively defining.  An employee at Beth Israel went to an Apple store, bought a device, synced up the work email, and then had the device stolen. 

I don’t imagine it happened as succinctly as that last sentence describes, but you can imagine this experience at your hospital, can’t you? 

Tireless hours of work later, John and his team were able to deal with the ramifications of the theft for the organization.  They then proceeded to spend about $300,000 to secure all the personal portable devices the organization’s employees wanted to use for work. 

For John and the organization, it cost them roughly the same to secure all the Ds in their employees’ BYOD efforts as it did for them to cover the total costs for EACH laptop lost or stolen from the hospital.  The experience taught him, when it came to those devices, he needed to embrace the use of personal devices and take charge ensuring those devices did not put the health system and its patients’ data at risk.

Confession time (don’t hate me HIMSS IT Help Deskers)….when I got my Kindle Fire, I tried to sync up my work email account to the device.  At all times throughout the process, my number one focus was on my convenience, with data integrity a distant thought behind, “WOW, I LOVE MY NEW KINDLE” and “I HAVE ALREADY SPENT HOW MUCH ON APPS AND MUSIC?!”

I know my thought patterns were on par with most other people in the way they use their digital devices.  However, the biggest consequence of a data breach on my device would not be the release of a patient population’s protected health information, but instead, it would show the world how many emails I send to virtual event speakers, bugging them to send me their presentations.

We have already tried pretty hard to blur the lines between work and home. 

How many employees use their company-issued laptops, smartphones and tablets, at the kitchen table (most of the time) or check email, by the side of the bed, as soon as they wake up

How many people check work email accounts on Sunday night saying, “I just want to clean up my inbox, honey, I swear,”?  (And yes, that snippet is almost-real dialog from the Bazer house.)

How many customer calls get to you, as you stand up and leave the table during  a family dinner?  

As the pace of technological change continues to speed up, the hours we work increases, the demands placed on all employees to increase their productivity explodes, and budgets decrease, BYOD strategies are going to make more bottom-line sense for both organizations and people employed at those organizations.

It IS more convenient for me to respond to work emails, and play the Wee Hairy Beasties for my son Ari, from the same device. 

But how many minutes am I spending staring at the emails on my tablet as opposed to the smiles on Ari’s face, as those smiles begin to fade, because he can’t get me to look away from the screen?

Adam Bazer is Manager, Distance Education at HIMSS. His areas of responsibility include the HIMSS Virtual Events and HIMSS Webinars. Prior to his current role, Adam was Manager, Annual Conference Education, responsible for the call for proposal process and speaker management of education sessions at the HIMSS Annual Conference. This post originally appeared on the HIMSS blog.