5 ways to succeed at BYOD

No, it's not a party invite: how to let successfully allow employees bring their own device to work

To say that mobile devices are firmly ensconced in the medical landscape is an understatement at best. Still, the conversation rages on about the proper place for smartphones, tablets and laptops. One element to this discussion is the role of BYOD. This sounds like something that should be on a party invitation, but it stands for "Bring Your Own Device," and it is a practice common in many industries where employees use their personal mobile devices in the workplace. BYOD can be cost-effective and time-saving in many settings, but the security and stability required by medical applications pose many tough questions for any healthcare organization pondering this option. Brent Lang, president and COO of Vocera, suggests some touchstones of a smart BYOD policy.

1. Have a strategy. The best way to meet the many trials of BYOD head on, Lang says, is to define what the boundaries of policy will be, and what issues they may encounter. Because mobile devices are a reality, and because they will be used, Lang says that hospitals need to "create a strategy around multiple devices, don't just take a passive role around that." Lang notes that in addition to the way that communications technology has changed over time, so have the layout and ways that hospitals operate. "Clearly, mobility is a huge movement within the healthcare environment," Lang says, pointing out that hospitals are moving away from the "classic hub and spoke" design, and that hospitals stand to lose money and efficiency by not adapting to the newer ways that personnel move and operate.

2. Understand the real costs. Welcoming mobile devices in to the workplace provides a remarkable amount of functionality in a convenient form factor. When (almost) everyone has a smartphone, it may seem like a more cost-effective option to rely on an employees personal devices instead of buying them outright. Lang says that the issue is a little more nuanced than that. BYOD entails a lot of work on the network side, and providing a stable and secure arena that all of those heterogeneous devices can get along and thrive in may entail more of a payout than imagined. "The increase in IT costs associated with managing those divides both from a content and security perspective, getting them on the network, the whole HIPAA security piece ... there's going to be an increased cost," Lang says.

3. Work out reimbursement. Another aspect to consider is the thorny issue of reimbursement. "Employees may expect some reimbursement," on anything from the device itself to the plan that feeds it with data, says Lang. He says that in some cases reimbursement is justified, and in others it is not. "If there's an expectation in an organization that you're going to always reachable and accessible as part of a critical workflow, then the organization is going to provide that device," he says. Lang also makes the point that when an organization relies on mobile devices, they can't rely on BYOD as an absolute. "You can't expect something to work if you're relying on BYOD," he says.

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