Unopened iPad stolen from VA as program launches

By Mary Mosquera
03:24 PM

As soon as the Department of Veterans Affairs launched its program to allow Apple iPad tablets to be used on the job, an unopened one was stolen from an agency office in Washington, according to a VA senior official. But that will not deter the VA’s plans to integrate mobile devices into healthcare delivery.

The stolen device did not contain any veterans’ data, and it had not yet been taken out of the box or registered with an employee. “If it were, we could reach out and touch it and wipe it clean,” said the official, in an Oct. 26 briefing with reporters.

The department has a mobile device manager (MDM) that can remotely wipe a device of data and applications when it is reported missing, but it is limited to the number of devices the department currently has.

On Oct. 1, VA began to permit employees to use Apple’s iPhone and iPad to connect to the department’s network in the course of their jobs. Initially, VA will distribute up to 1,000 iPads, but employees will have to make a business case for the value the device will bring to their responsibilities in order to get one, said VA CIO Roger Baker.

VA has put out a request for information for a mobile device manager to support the enterprise needs for up to 100,000 devices. The more robust MDM will be able to make a lost or stolen iPad useless, he said.

Through its current mobile device manger, VA limits the applications that are allowed to run on the iPad and also enforces encryption and multiple passwords for applications. VA also distributed information before Oct. 1 to remind employees of the department’s security policies, which will be enforced with the new devices. Employees also receive annual information security and privacy training, which evolves to incorporate lessons learned from past experiences, said Baker.

Clinicians, who will receive about 500 of the iPads, will start with a mobility application. Currently, when a clinician moves from room to room, he or she has to re-sign onto the system that is in the room with the patient and log off or lock it upon leaving. VA requires automatic timeouts when the system has been idle as part of security practices.

“A piece of productivity is gained for a clinician if he or she can just access the main medical application directly from a mobile device and have it walk with them from room to room and just change patients,” said Baker.

VA has won accolades for a post-traumatic stress disorder application that is in use now and based on evidence-based treatment for PTSD. “The apps that we authorize for use have to be evidence based and that the treatment that the app is encoding should be one that the evidence shows is effective treatment,” said Baker.

Other applications anticpated by VA will enable patient charting and analysis for EKGs and blood chemistry. Baker also sees location-based capabilities with real-time location systems (RTLS) and a mobile device matching up with the patient to make sure the physician is speaking with correct patient and, as a convenience, having that information automatically pop up on the board in the patient’s room.