Bring Your Own Device in Healthcare?

The NY Times has a good article on the increasing popularity of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies. This is appealing to many employees, and interesting to me. I want to further empower our tech savvy employees. But, I don’t think it won’t work in our environment at this time.

It is probably no mistake that the company cited in the article is Citrix Systems. I am sure that they have had a corporate IT purchasing policy for years that restricted purchased applications to those that work well in their Citrix environment. I think an environment where are applications are served via Citrix is a key requirement for a BYOD policy. All that is required is the IT to make sure that the Citrix client is running on the employee’s device. This leads me to…

Reason #1 that BYOD doesn’t work in a typical healthcare environment: Most applications don’t run well on a Citrix.

At Ministry Health Care and Affinity Health System we have literally hundreds of apps that we cannot deliver on Citrix. In fact so many, that we don’t try to deliver apps via thin client technologies unless there is a specific need to do so. Because most of our client applications run locally on the employee’s PC, we need to tightly control that environment to avoid conflicts and other things that keep people from doing their job.

It is probably reasonable to assume that the employees at Citrix Systems are more technologically savvy than the average employee base. Consequently the IT department at Citrix Systems doesn’t have to worry about the devices being in a usable state. That is not the case for our employee base, while we have many IT savvy employees many others, especially our caregivers, spend more time thinking patient care than computers. Many need a lot of help with basic PC support.

Reason #2 that BYOD doesn’t work in a typical healthcare environment: Many of our users require a lot of support from IT just to make sure their computers are in a working condition. IT cannot efficiently support hundreds of different device models.

I have seen it all, from browsers with a dozen installed toolbars to deleted system files. I would love to allow users to install their own software and customize their computers, but history has proven that there are far too many disruptions to the work environment when a liberal desktop management approach is used.

The story also quotes that Citrix Systems has reduced its device cost by 20%. But I am sure that doesn’t include the multi-year investment in Citrix software and servers required to deliver the applications to the desktops. That is hundreds of thousands of dollars and a significant new support requirement for organizations like ours.

In the future we might be able to offer such a policy to a certain group of users (managers and analysts). But there would be a lot of work in developing a plan to move that model and right now there this does not arise to the level of the most strategically important issue for Ministry to tackle. Needs like improved clinical information systems come first.

3 thoughts on “Bring Your Own Device in Healthcare?

  1. What are your thoughts on VDI deployment working hand-in-hand with bring your own device implementation. In such a case, I think it’s not so much bring your own device, but bring your own connction method.

  2. We are currently using that model, using VDI in conjunction with personal devices, and it has been successful. As part of the deployment we load tools on the device that allow us to insure the security of the device and contents, since not all devices are created equal. These tools allow us to control the device to the point that we can secure the data, implement policies settings and remove the information if required. One thing to remember is these devices, at least in their current state, will never be able to access everything or take the place of company owned and secured devices.

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