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The President Keeps His BlackBerry (sort of)

January 26, 2009
by Mark Hagland
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I've been following with considerable interest the coverage of the issue over whether then-President-elect Barack Obama could keep his ubiquitous BlackBerry. According media reports, Mr. Obama is almost never without his PDA, and argued, during the transition to his presidency, as it turns out successfully, to the Secret Service and legal authorities, that he needed to retain a PDA in order to avoid being pulled into the oft-decried "bubble" that inevitably encases presidents once they come into office. As of last week, now-President Obama was able to declare victory in the PDA tussle, with the White House revealing that the President was able to negotiate a deal in which he will be able to keep with him a secured, stripped-down version of his old BlackBerry (though it's not certain who the manufacturer is of the device that he will be holding onto). Where I think healthcare CIOs should find this all interesting is in the negotiation/security part of this story. Imagine for a moment that Barack Obama were a physician in your hospital organization, and you were moving rapidly to implement a comprehensive EMR/EHR. If Mr. Obama were a "techie" doc who was willing to go along with the implementation so long as he could have certain preferences respected, wouldn't you want to accommodate him and his colleagues? And if the top lawyers and tech people in the White House and Secret Service can make some kind of PDA secure enough for the President of the United States to be able to use it, shouldn't hospital organizations be able to work out both privacy and clinician preference issues around their EMR/EHR implementations? I should think so. And if our new President is able to use his PDA--granted, in a heavily modified form--to do the kinds of communicating he feels he needs to do to be successful in his job, shouldn't our clinicians be able to get satisfaction with regard to the wireless aspects of clinical communicaton? Again, I should think so. And as our industry moves forward into the next phases of its evolution with regard to clinical IS, one thing we can be certain of is this: clinician end-users--just like our new President, in his sphere--will be demanding more of their IT executives, and looking for a new level of responsiveness, flexibility, and capability. I just hope we're all prepared for it.

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Comments

Joe Bormel,
Thanks for your excellent comments! I think one of the key questions CIOs should be asking themselves right now is, Am I prepared to meet the accelerating usage demands of my clinicians? The question is a simple one at first glance, but the implications are quite immense. Thanks for taking the time to comment hereyour points are all very well conceived and articulated.Mark

Mark,
I'm glad you wrote this blog. It raises the right questions. Like, what kind of assurances to confidentiality can we actually expect? Last time there was a Blackberry Network unscheduled downtime, we learned that all email traffic was normally going through Blackberry servers in Canada. As you stated, they'll move to something that appears to be adequately secure and appropriate.

We all remember the mandate "no unencoded messages over an open channel." Yet, can the president expect that his message senders can get that right?

It reminds me of a few months back, when the president-elect called a politician by phone in Florida and that politician thought it was a crank call, and hung up on the now pres. Don't politicians know about caller-id, call-back protocols, and pre-coordinating important calls using their aids? Apparently not.

Your post raises the important realization that these tools are powerful and commonplace. Usage etiquette and hygiene, at least by media accounts is obviously not commonplace.

That's what concerns me.

Mark Hagland

Editor-In-Chief

Mark Hagland

@hci_markhagland

www.healthcare-informatics.com/blog/mark-hagland

Mark Hagland became Editor-in-Chief of Healthcare Informatics in January 2010. Prior to that, he...