It's Not Easy Being a Hospital's Mobile Device Manager | Page 2

"We have to keep close tabs on people that have changed devices," explained Rose. "For example, a nurse may have only had a pager, and then she went to a cell phone. Then someone decided she should have a BlackBerry or a Vocera badge. If we haven't tracked that, we could reach a point where we're paying for multiple devices for this one person when she only needed one."

Rose's network of support vendors, resellers, and manufacturers provide her with information for ongoing analysis and review, but the information is far from standardized, and quite often unreliable. And even if her suppliers could provide accurate information in a consistent format, telecommunications and IT departments need to wrap internal information around this data to make it properly correlate to the users and business units within their organizations.

Like other organizations, Norwalk Hospital uses a combination of spreadsheets and homegrown internal database applications to track and report on this loose collection of information. Unlike more traditional IT assets like servers or desktop computers, however, tools for mobile device management and asset allocation are not widely available or common, especially for a standalone community hospital.

For Rose and her peers, the need for a distributed means of reporting on device allocation and service status is high, especially with the pool of mobile devices growing.

And the attendant fiscal responsibility for those mobile devices is high, too. Per Rose, department heads constantly ask her which devices their department is being billed for. And to get that information, Rose often has to sift through three or four different buckets of information. "I'd go to a carrier. I'd go to the pager company. I would go to a Vocera file just to figure out how many devices do I have for my nursing staff?"

Now, on top of their existing pool of mobile devices, physicians at Norwalk Hospital are suggesting the adoption of more and different mobile devices like iPhones. For these sophisticated users, this is a seemingly perfect converged device, but definitely will definitely create a whole new area of asset management challenges to Rose's already diverse mix.

"Being able to manage all of these disparate devices all in one place would be so beneficial," she said.

Hospital Mobile Device Management 101
While no two hospitals are exactly alike, they often have similar challenges and needs when it comes to managing their mobile assets. So to help hospital telecommunications and IT managers better keep track of and manage mobile assets, here are seven tips:

1. Be sure to communicate with departmental managers regarding users, devices, and services they need. Ongoing communication is key to avoiding an escalation of costs and to making sure key production devices get to the users who truly need them.

2. Institute an accountability system. Don't share devices between users unless absolutely necessary. Even though hospitals are shift based, handing off devices will lead to loss and damage.

3. Get spares or backup devices (and accessories). People lose things. Be prepared so you don't wind up short.

4. Understand that you are in the asset management business. Whether you like it or not, the minute you get into the mobile device business, from a telecommunications IT management perspective, you are in the asset management business -—and you are going to need to have good communication with your suppliers.

5. Make sure you have good data and reporting tools. You are going to need some means of aggregating information together into some sort of holistic framework that you can share with your customers, so they can understand how devices are being used and where.

6. Get centralized. Having a means of centralizing the repair and disbursement of devices is critical to keeping costs under control, devices in production, and users happy.

7. Start practicing sound asset management the minute you rollout new devices. And let each department know what its responsibilities are. If you set up an asset management system from the get-go and get departmental buy in, your task will be a lot easier in the long run.

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