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The Mobility Narrative: All the Usual Challenges, with High-Level Clarity

July 31, 2013
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While multiple challenges of various sorts face healthcare IT leaders around mobility, there is at least big-picture clarity

In doing the research, interviewing, and reporting for my section of the July/August cover story package on mobile computing, I found my perceptions in that area being affirmed by the healthcare IT leaders and industry experts I interviewed. As it turns out, in certain ways, mobility for physicians right now is like so many other subjects in healthcare at the moment—it’s challenging, it’s complicated, and it relates to just about everything else.

It was fascinating to hear confirmation of what I had already believed to be true—that moving forward on mobility is something that involves challenges that face all types and sizes of patient care organizations. So whether it’s Mary Alice Annecharico, CIO of the very large Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, or Jeffrey Woo, M.D., a practicing family physician and the chief technology officer of Grand Valley Medical Specialists, a 15-physician practice, some of the same fundamentals apply in terms of IT governance and strategy. Specifically, moving forward to bring practicing physicians into the new, mobile world, means building consensus, tapping physician champions, crafting a plan that makes sense and ties closely into the organization’s broad strategic goals, and then of course figuring out the technical and technological aspects.

What’s more, the reality for all sizes and types of organizations is that there are no easy shortcuts to any of this, and that’s because of the intense level of individuality and specificity of patient care organizations across the U.S. So that part of it is inevitably turning out to be a hard slog for all healthcare IT leaders.

The good news, of course, is that the physicians, more and more, want to be mobile, and indeed, that means that sometimes, given the massive wave of the BYOD phenomenon hitting patient care organizations means that there is a gray lining in that silver cloud, as so many CIOs and CMIOs are finding out. So many, in fact, are finding it difficult to keep up with all the demand.

And, of course, as with everything else in healthcare, everything is connected to everything else. That certainly is something that Thomas McCarrick, M.D. , chief medical officer and CMIO of the 15-physician Vanguard Medical Group in northeastern New Jersey, can readily attest to. For Dr. McCarrick and his colleagues, the move towards mobility has been completely enmeshed with their participation in a regional, health plan-sponsored patient-centered medical home initiative, and their creation of a home visit program in geriatrics.

So the complexity rolls forward. But what really is good news at a fundamental level is this: when it comes to physician mobility, there is absolute clarity around the core concept—everyone knows that healthcare IT leaders in all patient care organizations are going to have to move ahead to facilitate the increasing mobility of physicians and other clinicians. So there is absolutely that. And now, with that clarity in plain view, there is the bundle of challenges—strategic, organizational, cultural, process, and technological—facing healthcare when it comes to clinician mobility. But clarity is something, and that does put the movement towards mobility into a different category from some other areas of endeavor within healthcare. And for that, healthcare IT leaders can be grateful, as they trudge forward.