Time for a Mobility Strategy?

Better and better mHealth are making increased use of better and better mobile hardware. The availability of high resolution photos, video chat, processing power, GPS service, and robust web browsers has spurred a new generation of apps. Patients are relying them and a new report indicates that the smart phone adoption rate is twice as high among physicians as the general population.

With the proliferation of mHealth solutions, organizations are developing mobility strategies. Mobility refers to mobile computing hardware and software. Google Dictionary defines strategy as “A plan of action or policy designed to achieve a major or overall aim.” A mobility strategy plans the use of mobile computing to support organizational objectives. If not convinced a mobility strategy is important, lessons from an earlier time in the IT industry show what happens without a strategy.

For decades following the birth of the IT industry, organizations often operated on large shared mainframe computers. Since they were shared among organizations, they all operated on the same IT platform. As computers got smaller and cheaper, organizations set up their own IT shops. And the number of IT platforms, even platforms within a single organization, proliferated. This ‘organic growth’ created compatibility challenges similar to those faced by healthcare organizations today.

In response to the proliferation of IT platforms, many organizations developed IT strategies. IT strategies often promote streamlined IT platforms. The objectives are to enable security, compatibility between systems, provide the flexibility to deploy new solutions when needed, reduce the number of different types of hardware and software IT departments are asked to support and to create cost savings.
As the mHealth industry expands, the number of mobile platforms is accelerating. Not only has mobile phone use soared over the past decade, mHealth apps are available on tablets such as the iPad. And the number of apps is growing rapidly. Does it make sense for everyone to use a different mobile phone and a different tablet? What if a useful app is available on the iPhone/iPad but not yet on the Droid/Android? Does the output of apps need to be shared among co-workers? Is it secure? Are there IT resources to support the platforms in use?

A mobility strategy will help answer these questions. To get started, keep the following considerations in mind:

  • Governance – controlling distribution and use of mobile hardware and software to ensure they support organizational objectives and comply with organizational constraints
  • Organizational priorities – identifying the areas in the organization that can benefit most from mHealth solutions (or most need to come under control)
  • Device management – identifying which device type(s) will best serve the organization and determining how to distribute, support and upgrade
  • Security and compliance – determining how privacy and security requirements can be met while still gaining the benefits of mobility
  • Measuring success – setting objectives such as user satisfaction, adoption rate, cost reduction etc. that meet organizational objectives and determining how to measure them
  • Monitoring and updating strategy – building in the flexibility to update the strategy as necessary to support evolving needs and market offerings

The resulting strategy should be written, practiced and revisited regularly although infrequently. While the strategy may be brief, it should complement existing organizational objectives and either extend the existing IT strategy or be the start of a new one.

Sources: eWeek.com, Harnessing the Value of mHealth for Your Organization by Fran Turisco and Mike Garzone, Google Dictionary