VA shifts tablet initiative into higher gear

By Tom Sullivan
02:11 PM

In a very short time, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) accelerated from very few to many tablet devices.

Now the VA is ramping its wireless initiative up and moving into the fast lane. As such, it's looking for a mobile device management platform to handle security and management for as many as 100,00 smartphones and tablets -- fueling speculation that it intends to acquire that many devices in the short-term. Then again, other reports have pointed out that the request for information calls for 20 iPads, 20 Android devices and 20 Windows machines each year.

VA CIO Roger Baker has been forthright in acknowledging that some employees are already using unsanctioned devices, and rather than fighting it the VA has worked to embrace the "bring your own device" movement. On October 1, 2011, in fact, the agency began permitting employees to do just that -- so long as the carry-ins were iPads or iPhones.

Then, early last month, Baker traded in his notebook for an iPad, saying that clinicians – physicians, nurses, techs – are the real focus of VA’s increasingly mobile program.

Data security is critical to anyone using mobile devices and the VA is no exception. Baker said in July that ironing out information access and encryption will be key to success.

Other military agencies are also cutting the wires. The Department of Defense, in conjunction with the VA, has issued a series of smartphone and telehealth applications, largely focused on helping patients manage their health, under the T2 program. And the Army is testing devices for use in the theater of war, according to Lt. Col. William Geesey, who writes in a blog post that “each day the Army’s getting closer to identifying an approved mobile electronic device for soldiers downrange.”