It's Not Easy Being a Hospital's Mobile Device Manager

Bernadette Rose is the Manager of Telecommunications and Communication Services at Norwalk Hospital in Norwalk, Connecticut. In the heart of the very competitive Fairfield County, Connecticut, marketplace, Norwalk has over 310 staffed beds and transacted over $540 million of business in 2007 (~80,000 patient days).

Over the last five years, demand for mobile technologies at Norwalk Hospital has risen exponentially. Unfortunately, additional headcount to keep those devices under control, as well as tools to manage these critical communication devices, has not kept pace.

In her role as Telecommunications Manager, Rose presides over an extensive investment in mobile devices, some 1500 of them, including a hospital-wide Vocera deployment that includes over 400 hands-free speech recognition enabled VoWiFi (Voice over WiFi) devices from Vocera. Software licensing and on-going operational costs aside (as well as replacements/additions), these mobile devices represent over $500,000 of pure capital costs.

In respect to asset management, Rose's challenges are significant. And she is not alone.

With an ever-increasing pool of devices, high demand by needy end-users, and limited staff, keeping track of devices' service status, repair/warranty/production information, carrier costs, as well as literal inventory, is an absolute necessity to Norwalk, and to other hospitals that rely on mobile devices. It's also one of a telecommunications/mobile asset manager's greatest challenges.

Mobile Devices: A Game Changer
Twenty years ago, life was much simpler for telecommunications professionals. "Whether you worked for a hospital or any other type of business, you bought your dial tone from whatever company supported you, like AT&T or Verizon, and basically they did all the work for you," said Rose, a member of Norwalk Hospital's IT staff for seven years.

Of course this was way before the proliferation of wireless mobile devices. (Even pagers were in their infancy back then). If you wanted to track something down, you could trace a wire and find the device on the other end of it.

In the intervening 20 years, however, customers like Norwalk Hospital recognized the cost and feature benefits of in-house systems and started bringing many of these services in house. At around the same time, consumers started to understand the value of mobile communications in the workplace.

As a result, today end-users are the ones often demanding or driving the adoption of new applications and mobile technologies, which typically cannot be supplied by a single vendor. And these end users can be very sophisticated.

"The audience that I support runs the gamut from administrative staff, to engineering, to doctors and nurses," said Rose. "Medical professionals know technology because they use it in their day-to-day lives. So now they come to us and say, 'this is what I want and this is what I want to be able to do. What can you provide to me that will allow me to do that?'"

Increasingly this requires obtaining mobile devices that are uniquely suited or configured to work in a hospital, where there is no such thing as downtime and instant communication is often critical. "Everything is much more critical, more immediate, because there's patient care involved," she added.

Multiple Devices + Multiple Providers = Multiple Headaches
Today, hospitals have many devices to choose from —and, as a result, the mobile device mix you find in a typical hospital can be dizzying. And that can often lead to asset management issues.

"Tracking everything is mind boggling, and it's never accurate," said Rose. "I think that's the most frustrating part. If you put all this work into it and it was always accurate, then you could at least feel like you were accomplishing something. But managing the devices and the pool of spares and who is financially responsible for them takes up more time than anyone would ever credit."

In non-profit organizations like hospitals allocating and managing costs for mobile devices can be a slippery slope. There's lots of turnover, but also users' needs and the devices they require can change very dynamically.


services, wireless, Verizon, AT&T, voice
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