How the NHS aims to improve healthcare by boosting productivity through mobility

It’s long been mooted that giving employees more freedom with their mobile devices will lead to a happier, more productive workforce. Yet the security of information remains paramount – and in a sector such as healthcare, it’s not just the company you’re letting down, but potentially confidential patient details.

With figures ranging from one in five to one in three users admitting to losing devices in public places, depending on who you read, it’s a game of roulette senior executives don’t want to be playing. It’s not just hypothetical examples of this stuff happening either; back in October the Information Commissioner’s Office let slip details of a Royal Veterinary College employee who lost a camera which included a memory card holding passport images of six potential job applicants.

For the South Devon NHS Health Trust, this balancing act of improving operations whilst keeping data secure was all too apparent.

The South Devon arm of the health service has its IT looked after by the South Devon Health Informatics Service (SDHIS), providing support to two groups, the South Devon Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and Torbay and Southern Devon Health and Care NHS Trust.

David Hayes is IT operations manager for SDHIS. He notes the iPad 2 “opened the door” to increased productivity through mobility, but it didn’t come without its risks.

“Having employees use unsecure, unapproved applications was a huge risk that did not comply with our information governance policies,” he notes.

“We needed a way for staff to easily share important documents, but with watertight security, comprehensive audit trails and files hosted on-site.”

The trouble was that despite having an MDM solution in place, employees were using file-sharing solutions such as Dropbox – top of any enterprise blacklisted app list – and putting the Trust’s security at risk, unwittingly or not.

A workable solution was mooted, but involved direct access to the network without a VPN. Eventually, after a six-month trial, the Trust went with mobile file sharing provider Accellion to provide sufficient encryption and authentication.

“Our use of Accellion is spreading through our organisation like a spider’s web,” notes Hayes, “creating instant collaboration networks with independent providers, health care professionals, and other third-parties.”

So with a new secure solution in place, what does this increased mobility look like in day to day business? For a start, it means that meetings are more productive; as opposed to an administrator distributing hard copies of meeting notes, it all goes into a workspace enabling employees to annotate and view notes ad hoc. It also influences patient care, with teams being able to work together more freely on individual patient cases.

“IT is enabling a new way of working,” he adds. “We have senior executives who now do 95% of their work on an iPad.”

 

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