Developing a Strategy to Manage Mobile Devices

By Samuel Greengard Print this article Print
mobile device management

Savvy enterprises are developing a strategic plan for managing mobile devices in order to maximize business opportunities and minimize IT challenges and risk.

Mobility Means Business

One organization that has put mobile device management at the center of its strategy is Memorial Hermann Healthcare, a not-for-profit health care provider with 12 hospitals and 40 professional office buildings scattered around Houston. The organization— ranked among the nation's top 15 health care providers—has 5,500 affiliated physicians and 21,000 employees.

Overall, physicians, allied health professionals and staff use more than 40,000 edge devices, according to John Barr, consulting technology architect. "Wireless technology has become a critical tool in providing efficient care and improving patient safety," he says.

The facility relies on mobile technology for basic communication, as well as an array of specialized capabilities, including wireless charting and review of electronic medical records (EMR), physician order entry, medication administration and scanning specimens for labs. Some doctors and others bring their own devices to work, while the facility issues devices to many others.

However, the hospital is heading toward a BYOD approach. "Physicians and others will be able to use their own iOS and Android devices," Barr says. That's a job that IT executives don't take lightly, especially since the facilities are spread across a 50-mile periphery and numerous types of devices enter the picture.

"There are huge concerns over patient safety and protecting health information," Barr explains. "Today's mobile devices—smartphones and tablets—are replaceable. We cannot afford to have protected health information floating out and winding up in the wild. We must be able to protect against human carelessness, as well as external threats."

Memorial Hermann is addressing mobile device management by focusing on policies, procedures and tools that span operating systems, devices and functional requirements. For example, the facility is now looking for ways to more effectively sandbox sensitive data so that it drops off a device when the user leaves the wireless network. "Once they are off the network, it's extremely difficult to manage the device and protect the data," Barr explains.

The organization also has put strong protections in place. A Honeywell Remote MasterMind solution manages handheld barcode scanners and mobile devices, and an AirWatch MDM solution tracks smartphones and tablets, including Android and iOS devices. The latter software blocks jail-broken devices from the network.

If an employee violates the policy, their device is automatically wiped. In addition, system administrators can view devices and activity from a central dashboard. They also can push out updates and notifications on an as-needed basis and access device metrics and statistics to quickly diagnose issues.

Securing the Enterprise

Research firm Analysis Mason describes four essential elements of a BYOD framework. The first involves implementation, including device policy, connectivity enablement and policy, device logistics and provisioning. The second element revolves around application enablement, including customer app development, mobile customization and configuration, integration, data synchronization and application allocation.

The third centers on management, including device and OS application management. The final element dives into security, including device authentication, data backups and protection, remote lock and wipe, secure connectivity, malware protection and partitioning.

Mobile device management must also deliver a framework that can adapt to today's rapidly changing market and business conditions. This means designing "a flexible and responsive approach that makes it possible to on-board devices quickly."

This article was originally published on 2013-09-18

Samuel Greengard is a contributing writer for Baseline.

eWeek eWeek

Have the latest technology news and resources emailed to you everyday.