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Survey: Most Hospitals Formalizing a Mobility Strategy

September 30, 2016
by Heather Landi
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Hospitals and health systems are increasingly formalizing their organization’s mobility strategy, as the number of healthcare organizations with a documented mobility strategy has nearly doubled since 2012, according to a survey by Spok, Inc.

According to the findings of the 2016 survey findings, 63 percent of healthcare organizations have a documented mobility strategy, compared to 34 percent just four years ago.

Spok’s fifth annual mobility strategies in healthcare survey presents responses from 550 healthcare organizations about mobile strategy documentation, bring your own device (BYOD) policies, communications infrastructure, and information security.

Of the 37 percent of respondents that do not have documented mobile strategies, about a third are currently working on it, and nearly one fifth have a verbal strategy. Fifteen percent reported budget constraints was preventing the development of a mobility strategy.

Mobile strategies help healthcare organizations define their organizational goals and feed the framework for all mobile-related projects. While mobility is still largely an IT project, there are many stakeholders with a vested interest in the successful use of mobile devices, and this is slowly being reflected in the mix of people involved in the planning process, the study authors wrote.

According to the survey findings, when comparing results from 2014 to 2016, clinical leadership involvement in developing mobile strategy has increased as well as the involvement of doctors and nurses. IT involved in developing mobile strategy decreased 12 points, or 14 percent, according to the survey findings.

“It is evident that the topics of mobility and mobile communications are shifting away from being strictly IT projects toward becoming enterprise projects. Clinical leadership and front-line care team members are increasingly involved in the planning stages, suggesting an appreciation for the enormity of the scope and how such rollouts can affect both staff and ultimately patients,” the study authors wrote.

Of the respondents, 78 percent said improving nurse-to-physician and physician-to-physician communications is a stated goal of their particular organization.

“Involving clinicians in the planning phases not only helps ensure end user concerns and specific workflow requirements are being met, but also creates a base of clinical support to help drive the cultural shifts necessary for this kind of project to succeed,” the study authors wrote.

Other stated goals of surveyed healthcare organizations include critical test results management (74 percent), ER/bed turnover (68 percent), nurse call and patient monitoring alerts to mobile devices (68 percent) and alarm fatigue (58 percent).

Survey findings reveal that the diversity of mobile devices is increasing as new types of devices, such as wearables, are added to the mix and existing tools remain firmly entrenched in clinicians’ workflows.

The survey demonstrates that pagers continue to play a major role in communications, with 71 percent of organizations supporting in-house pager and 57 percent supporting wide-area pagers. Smartphones are the most commonly supported mobile device, with 78 percent of organizations supporting smartphones, and 69 percent supporting Wi-Fi phones. About half of organizations support tablets. Of the respondents, 8 percent support smartwatches/wearables and 20 percent support voice badges.

“After showing a bump in 2015, tablet usage has declined back to 2014 levels. This could reflect a new shift in user preferences for alternative devices that better fit clinician preferences. For example, smartphones are available with bigger screens for easier visibility, but they still fit in a coat pocket and support phone call,” the study authors wrote.

The survey also reveals that there is a large gap in the infrastructure necessary to support mobile strategies and devices, including wireless network coverage and enterprise mobility management (EMM) solutions. Fifty-four percent of respondents cited Wi-Fi coverage as a current challenge for mobile device users, and 47 percent said they experienced cellular coverage challenges. When asked about challenges at their facilities with regard to mobile device usage, 43 percent cited data security and 39 percent reported user compliance with mobility, bring-your-own-device (BYOD), and enterprise mobility management policies and procedures. Additionally, 37 percent cited IT support for users as a current challenge.

“In last year’s survey, data security was cited as the primary challenge for 62 percent of the hospitals that supported BYOD environments; it was also cited by 81 percent of respondents as the primary reason for not allowing BYOD. With the rise in fines for data breaches, increasing frequency of ransomware hacks, and stepped up efforts to investigate data breaches by the Office of Civil Rights at the Department of Health and Human Services, it is not surprising that hospitals are reluctant to participate in the BYOD movement,” the study authors wrote.

The survey results also show that the number of healthcare organizations allowing BYOD has actually decreased from 73 percent in 2015 to 58 percent in 2016. However, nearly 20 percent of survey respondents reported that their organizations don’t allow any sort of BYOD program, which is an eight-point decrease from 2015. Five percent of respondents are planning for BYOD and 18 percent who answered “don’t know.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, physicians, administrators and IT staff are among the staff with the greatest participating in BYOD programs. When asked which staff are allowed to participate in BYOD, 89 percent cited physicians, 75 percent cited administrators, 66 cited IT staff and half cited nurses, with lab staff, transport, and housekeeping having much lower participation levels in BYOD programs.

Cost savings was cited as the biggest driver for allowing some form of BYOD (cited by 60 percent of respondents), and that response jumped from third place to first in this year’s survey.

“Some hospitals have great success with saving money through BYOD programs, while others see losses. This disparity appears to be largely driven by the amount of planning and attention to detail—well executed plans with clearly defined parameters produce better results than poorly planned and managed implementations. Another source of cost savings can be the use of apps. With more applications and use cases being applied, the value of the BYOD investment and cost savings increases,” the study authors wrote.

Other drivers for allowing BYOD cited by respondents included workflow time saver for users, care team communication and physician demand.

The survey findings also indicate that mobile device user access to approved systems and applications increased across the board. The top two most common systems approved for mobile access in 2016 were directory lookup and the electronic medical record (EMR) system (62 percent of respondents) and the largest increases over 2015 are for critical test results (up from 29 percent to 48 percent) and the EMR system (up from 43 percent to 62 percent).

“These findings align with respondents’ stated hospital goals to improve care team coordination and critical test result communication,” the study authors wrote.

And, a little more than half (55 percent) of respondent report that their hospitals use a secure texting solution.

“The study authors concluded, “Hospitals allowing some form of BYOD program are in a steadily shrinking majority, possibly as a result of the additional risks involved with data security. The number of organizations using EMM to coordinate end-user mobile devices remains relatively steady, though the proportion that are evaluating this solution jumped, suggesting more interest in enterprise-wide coordination of all devices and securing information access.”


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