Penn Medicine’s mobile deployment strategy

February 10, 2015 in Medical Technology

With a combination of vendor-developed and homegrown apps, Penn Medicine has a varied mobile device landscape – that poses challenges for security, but opportunities for smoother clinical workflow and improved outcomes.

[See also: Mobile apps keep doctors on the go]

At the Healthcare IT News Privacy Security Forum in San Diego on March 6, Neha Patel, MD, director of quality in Penn Medicine’s division of hospital medicine, will offer a case study of sorts on how her organization keeps its clinicians, security officers – and patients – happy through the use of mobile tools.

Penn’s mobile initiatives – from secure messaging apps to a newly-developed mobile EMR patient dashboard –  run the gamut. Some (like the latter) were developed internally by developers; others (like the former) come from vendors. A few apps were even thought up by frontline clinical users.

[See also: BYOD tips: Keep it simple, be nimble]

With care teams needing instant, efficient, “anywhere” access to patient data, there’s no shortage of use cases for these fast-developing mobile tools. But there are challenges to ensuring optimal – and secure – use. In San Diego, Patel will offer Penn Medicine’s perspective.

“We started in this work a few years ago – primarily interested in how can we make the workflow efficient for our clinicians,” says Patel. “We started with looking at communication.? Particularly, we wanted to give our care providers more efficient and effective ways of communicating. Part of that was starting a secure messaging pilot.

“We wanted all of the team members to be involved – residents, faculty, nurses, basically everyone in the care provider team,” she adds. “To give them a tool so they can communicate virtually, so they didn’t always have to rely on face-to-face communications, which as you know is challenging in a hospital environment, where it’s dynamic and in constant flux.”

At Penn Medicine, the guiding philosophy for mobile tools is to “look at what the problem is first, and then we develop prototypes of the solution,” says Patel. “With mobile apps, our philosophy is that we like to run tests. And we do that based on users and what their experience is.

“Because we’re developing these apps, in the end, to meet our patient care goals,” she says. “But what we need to do is make sure the right people are using the apps, for the right reason, and to help us meet those goals. Getting frontline staff to help tell us what their experiences are, with either a homegrown app or vendor, is key.”

So, of course, is keeping them secure.

With Penn Medicine’s messaging pilot, funding was allocated for “secure devices for everybody,” says Patel. But with its homegrown mobile EMR patient dashboard, we were able to just push out, because you can use it on the hospital Wi-Fi.”

That meant that “a lot of people liked these apps who did not have smartphones issued to them by their department or by the hospital,” she says. “We realized that a lot of people were using these apps even though they have our mobile device management on it. They were using their own phones. We wanted to give these people some guidance about what to do.”

Part of that was offering staff “the opportunity to separate their personal data from their corporate data,” says Patel. “We have something called containerization” – a platform that securely divides corporate apps from personal ones on a users’ mobile device – “that allows people using their own devices that opportunity.”

Too many providers, she adds, have “sort of accepted that people are using their phones and they’re doing unsecured texting. It’s sort of like a don’t look, don’t ask culture right now. Developing policies that allow clinicians and frontline staff to use their devices (securely) is really important.”

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