Health organizations finalizing budget plans for 2015 should be taking a look at their mobile device strategy and how it can become more efficient and less costly.

Hospitals and practices increasingly are supporting bring-your-own-device policies for physicians because the docs are demanding it and there isn’t a way to really get around it, says Mike Lanciloti, vice president at Spectralink Corp., a vendor of purpose-based mobile communication devices for the healthcare, retail and manufacturing sectors.

Physicians are on call between their practices and the hospital, and they want the apps, schedules and other conveniences of smartphones while working. But those phones are using the cellular network and ringing up recurring monthly fees, and hospital may be subsidizing some of the cost for the physicians.

A provider organization may want to look into buying purpose-based communication devices for physicians from Spectralink or other vendors, but the reality is that it’s a battle administrators likely will lose, Lanciloti says. Further, administrators themselves often also are using their own smartphones and won’t want to give them up.

It is the nursing force where it may make economic sense to bring in purpose-built communication devices. In many facilities, nurses are not permitted to use personal smartphones, but they are—the phone is in every pocket. Physicians view their smartphone as an all-purpose device and they want the latest and greatest apps. Nurses generally will accept a purpose-built device because for them, it’s just a work device and all they need, Lanciloti says.

Such purpose-built devices may economically make sense because they have no reoccurring monthly fees as the devices run on a facility’s Wi-Fi network. Smartphones on the other hand, don’t support Wi-Fi well.

“Smartphones are optimized to sitting at home or at Starbucks doing data transfer,” Lanciloti explains. “But when walking through a building with hundreds of Wi-Fi access points, smartphones often don’t seamlessly hand-off to the next point. And what if you are in a conference room and everyone is on Wi-Fi at once? Some will get kicked off.”

While apps are available to connect smartphones to hospital phone systems, allowing users to dial by extension or transfer calls, for example, these apps do not improve Wi-Fi connectivity or the ability to place calls in areas of the building where cellular connectivity is poor. This means hospitals using smartphones still run the risk of poor voice quality and dropped calls.

When CIOs put together their budget for mobile devices, they often underestimate the total cost of using a BYOD model, so when finalizing mobile plans for 2015, they should consider several factors, Lanciloti advises.

The mobile budget may need to be increased to factor a more realistic estimate for replacing lost, stolen or broken devices, as they are used extensively and are dropped often. Extended warranties, he counsels, are generally not worth the additional fees. A bump up in line items also would be wise for such costs as buying replaceable batteries or battery chargers, as well as protective cases.

Also generally underestimated, at least to a moderate degree, are the costs to install, update and manage both BYOD and hospital-owned devices. There are several vendors selling good software to manage business apps on mobile devices, Lanciloti says, and he mentions MobileIron, IBM, Soti and Citrix.

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