Skip to content Skip to navigation

The Doctor Is In (and Wants to Get Online)

July 29, 2013
by Mark Hagland
| Reprints
CIOs and CMIOs are figuring out how to help their organizations survive--and thrive--in the emerging world of mobility

Compared with some industries, mobile computing came late to healthcare. But now, the revolution is accelerating—both on the clinician end-user side, and in the arena of clinician-patient communications and care management. How are IT leaders engaging clinicians and helping clinicians engage patients, in the emerging healthcare?

Here is Part 2 of this Cover Story Package, The Promise of Mobile: Connecting to Underserved Populations


What happens when the goals of workflow optimization and data security clash? CIOs and CMIOs are finding out.

Remember the time, back, say, about six or seven years ago, when the majority of physicians still had to be dragged kicking and screaming into the world of healthcare automation? That time now seems so…well, “last decade,” doesn’t it? Indeed, with a confluence of policy, payment, business, and technology trends pushing change forward, the time when CIOs, CMIOs and other healthcare IT leaders faced daunting resistance from doctors with regard to using clinical IT tools has morphed rapidly into a new phase in healthcare, one in which healthcare IT leaders can barely keep up with the demand for electronic connectivity on the part of their organizations’ physicians.

What’s happened to change the equation? Two sets of trends: first, the broad availability and affordability of mobile computing devices, particularly smartphones and smaller tablets, which has spawned the “BYOD” (bring your own device) phenomenon among physicians. Second, a raft of policy mandates coming out of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act in 2009, is forcing physicians and hospitals to implement and use electronic health records (EHRs) on a tight schedule; and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2010, is requiring hospitals and physicians to document their quality outcomes for mandatory programs such as the avoidable readmissions reduction program and the healthcare-acquired conditions reduction program, and encouraging participation in accountable care organizations and bundled-payment contracting.

In contrast to the situation several years ago, nowadays, one of the core challenges for healthcare IT leaders is figuring out how to get ahead of the avalanche of demands for connectivity on the part of physicians, as well as helping them understand and embrace needed data security protocols and processes. That challenge only became more pressing on Jan. 17 of this year, when the Office of Civil Rights of the Department of Health and Human Services released a new “Omnibus Rule” under the HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996) Privacy and Security Rules linked to the HITECH Act. The development only cemented for healthcare IT leaders the need to get more strategic about the BYOD phenomenon. So, what are CIOs, and CMIOs and other healthcare IT leaders doing about it?


At Henry Ford Health System, the Detroit-based integrated health system with five hospitals, 240 care sites, and 1,500 employed and 500 affiliated physicians, senior vice president and CIO Mary Alice Annecharico freely admits that developing a BYOD strategy continues to be a work in progress, despite the fact that she was deeply involved in helping to craft a comprehensive BYOD policy shortly after she arrived at the organization from the University Hospitals of Cleveland in December 2011, one whose development involved a tremendous amount of consensus-building among physician leaders at Henry Ford.

“It’s forever challenging; and as quickly as the platform developers develop a new product, we have to be ready to support a new device,” Annecharico reports. “We had a policy up to a year ago that the standard for device use was the Blackberry, and you know what happened to the Blackberry; but that gave us the opportunity to embrace the iPad and iPhone.” In addition, the broad set of BYOD policies at Henry Ford, she notes, is closely linked to the aggressive efforts to complete the rollout of the Epicare EHR solution (from the Verona, Wis.-based Epic Systems Corporation) across the entire Henry Ford organization.

Mary Alice Annecharico, R.N.

Most importantly, Annecharico says, “We are a culture of confidentiality, and we’re very, very cognizant of the exposure and risk to brand identity and to our exposure under the HITECH Act, with regard to our obligation to protect our patients’ privacy and security. So we have these products very embedded in a program that helps us manage at the device and network levels, for privacy and security. Every device has to be registered, and every device is encrypted through [the Atlanta-based] AirWatch; and there’s shared accountability and responsibility for the devices if anything happens to them.”