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Healthcare workers breaking free from offices

How well hospital IT departments can secure mobile devices and apps will go a long way in determining how employees can use these devices for work.

Mobile devices -- supported by a vast application marketplace and ease of use -- have enabled remote workers to perform all of their tasks outside of a traditional office setting. This has only been fully realized in some non-healthcare settings. Healthcare employees deal with a different set of circumstances because care workflows typically require showing up at the hospital or doctor's office.

But they too can leverage many of mobile devices' capabilities to become more efficient.

In most traditional business settings, staffers need on-demand access to email, a dedicated voice line, as well as a desktop computer. These are reasons why staff members are tied down to a cubicle. A growing number of hospitals recognize that employees should be given the flexibility to be able to do most of these things while on the go.

Hospitals owned by Carolina Health Systems -- current users of Microsoft Lync -- are evaluating the voice capabilities of the platform to see what it can provide its employees. Lync is a platform that aims to enable full voice capabilities for users through a softphone that comes with the program.

Lync is only one of the products that can make a case for mobile health employees working remotely. There are other enhancements and capabilities available in today's mobile devices that are enabling more healthcare employees to be fully functional outside of the office.

Robust apps and mobile devices

Hospital users can leverage the increasing compute power of today's mobile devices and apps to gain access to digital content within the health system. In cases where hospital data systems don't have native apps to run on phones and tablets, IT departments can open up those systems to mobile devices via virtualization. These mirror the same functionality their traditional desktop counterparts offer.

Communication capabilities

Beyond emails, mobile devices and tablets are equipped to handle applications such as Microsoft Lync and other software that fully supports voice capabilities. Long were the days when your extension was only available at your desk. Now, end users can have their extension ring on their mobile device wherever they have Internet connectivity.

Improved collaboration

One of the arguments against staff working remotely or being constantly on the go is a resulting lack of interaction or collaboration. While mobile devices can never replace face-to-face interactions, through a combination of apps, they can allow physicians, nurses and patients to connect and access medical records from anywhere.

Hospitals can offer mobile workers the tools and functionality to help increase their productivity. Unfortunately, as more employees choose to work remotely and some others bring their work home with them at the end of the day, hospitals are burdened with heavier mobile security and data protection loads. Healthcare CIOs and IT teams must be fully aware of these risks and be able to address them with the right policies and tools.

About the author:
Reda Chouffani is vice president of development at Biz Technology Solutions Inc., which provides software design, development and deployment services for the healthcare industry. Let us know what you think about the story; email or contact @SearchHealthIT on Twitter.

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