Spotty Wi-Fi: The Biggest Barrier to BYOD at Hospitals

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Spotty Wi-Fi: The Biggest Barrier to BYOD at Hospitals

7SIGNAL keeps your network healthy so personal devices can connect at all times

A doctor uses a personal tablet to quickly access patient information and communicate with other members of a care team. Patients use their smartphones to entertain themselves and communicate with the outside world during their stay. Visitors work from their bedsides on personal laptops. Personal wearable devices monitor patient activity and health.

BYOD strategies – Bring Your Own Device – are gaining traction at hospitals as caregivers increasingly shun work-issued devices in favor of personal ones that are already comfortable and higher-tech. Using personal devices raises valid concerns about privacy and security, as well as the massive strain that connecting hundreds – and at large hospitals, thousands – of additional devices adds to legacy Wi-Fi networks.

But the age of digital connection is upon us: the average American owns at least eight internet-connected devices – and that number is projected to reach 13 by 2021. More than 70 percent of hospitals in a 2017 Spok study allow some form of BYOD – and at those that don’t, 41 percent of nurses and 63 percent of doctors say they use their personal devices for work purposes anyway.

Personal devices are becoming commonplace in the workplace and in many cases, they are the standard. Integrating them into a hospital environment involves complex issues related to security risks, boosting wireless networks, and the varying needs of different groups of staff. But many hospitals are realizing that the inevitability of unauthorized BYOD when policies are not in place – and the staggering numbers of patients and visitors trying to connect every day – means the need to do so can no longer be ignored.

Why hospitals are embracing BYOD

Health systems that resist BYOD typically require employees to use hospital-issued devices. These devices have specific functions, including communication and data sharing. Their reach is limited to the hospital campus and they are easily locked and wiped clean.

This approach is generally embraced by nurses and support staff but rejected by doctors, who can’t access the information they need when they leave the hospital for their own office hours, to work at home, or to collaborate with specialists in other locations. As far back as 2013, Wolters Kluwer Health reported that 80 percent of physicians were using their smartphones for professional purposes.

In a field where instant access to information can be a matter of life or death, many caregivers insist that being able to use their own smartphones or tablets at work enhances the quality of care and creates overall efficiencies. Here are the four biggest reasons many hospitals are embracing BYOD:

  • Cost savings. BYOD saves hospitals money because they don’t need to purchase the latest devices or continuously replace ones that aren’t working. Investing in security or device management is considerably less expensive than buying devices for an entire staff – an undertaking many hospitals can’t afford. That means BYOD policies also enable people to benefit from mobile tools that wouldn’t be available to them if caregivers weren’t using their own devices.
  • Comfort levels. When employees use personal devices that are already comfortable, they communicate faster and easier and their job satisfaction soars. Many prefer certain platforms, and most don’t want to exchange the advanced features of their own devices for hospital devices that tend to be more dated and may not work as well.
  • Mobility and efficiency. For the first time, nearly 60 percent of hospitals said easier communication between team members was the top driver behind their decision to adopt a BYOD policy, Spok reports. Cost savings, workflow time savings for users, and response to doctor demand were other leading factors. Using their own personal devices enables employees to work when they are out of the office or on the go, instead of being chained to a location and its computer. It also allows for instant responses to time-sensitive situations.
  • Recruiting and retaining talent. Many young, tech-savvy healthcare providers are quick to dismiss hospitals that have not implemented BYOD policies as “outdated.” Not allowing BYOD at your hospital can hurt your ability to recruit and retain top talent.

Drawbacks to consider

Of course, there are some drawbacks that hospitals must consider before transitioning to a BYOD environment:

  • Data security. Data security is the main reason hospitals hesitate to adopt BYOD policies. Personal devices generally lack the security features of hospital-issued devices. A corrupted app on a personal device can quickly infect a hospital network and make sensitive information vulnerable.
  • Employees may also be lax about keeping personal devices locked with a password or PIN, and it’s not uncommon for them to get lost or stolen. Using these devices outside the hospital and for personal reasons makes it even easier for patient data to be compromised. In fact, using personal devices to communicate with care teams or share patient data is a clear HIPAA violation if it’s done via an unsecured network without data encryption.
  • This is why stringent data security procedures, policies, and software implementation are necessary before considering a BYOD environment.
  • The Internet of Things. In the healthcare ecosystem of the future, BYOD won’t be limited to smartphones, laptops, and tablets. The Internet of Things is challenging IT departments by enabling health and wellness data to be captured and shared from a seemingly unlimited number of personal devices, including wearables, home-based devices, and more.
  • Compatibility issues. In some instances, BYOD can hamper team communication since personal devices may not have access to hospital databases like on-call schedules or staff directories. Some devices also may not be compatible with apps that a hospital uses or be able to perform certain functions. Different mobile operating systems can sometimes struggle to interact with each other as well.
  • Wi-Fi coverage. Dependable wireless coverage is mission critical for hospital workers to use personal devices successfully. Unfortunately, many hospitals suffer inadequate Wi-Fi and cell coverage throughout their facilities, eliminating the time-saving benefits of BYOD. The exploding number of personal devices trying to connect can also easily overwhelm legacy networks, leading to frustrating slowdowns, lost messages, and outages.
  • More than half of hospitals cite Wi-Fi issues as the biggest stumbling block to implementing BYOD policies, Spok reports. For BYOD to work, hospitals must be able to provide coverage for all devices and ensure that they are properly identified by the network.

The biggest roadblock to success

7SIGNAL supports BYOD strategies by eliminating one of the biggest challenges: unreliable Wi-Fi. Its automated performance management system allows hospitals to monitor and proactively manage end-user Wi-Fi experiences with unprecedented visibility into every corner of a network – no matter how remote.

7SIGNAL crowdsources Wi-Fi experiences from every smartphone, laptop, and tablet on your network, enabling you to instantly identify devices, floors, or buildings that are having trouble. Access to historical and real-time data allows you to quickly analyze these non-performing areas, discover the root cause, receive actionable suggestions for improving network performance, and take corrective action before anyone ever notices or complains. Trending reports quickly verify the impact of the changes you make to your network.

BYOD represents the future of hospital IT programs, as caregivers increasingly refuse hospital-issued devices in favor of their own smartphones, tablets, and laptops. These programs reduce costs, improve job satisfaction, and create greater efficiencies. But when legacy Wi-Fi networks can’t handle the significant increase in traffic, it eliminates many benefits and puts patient health and safety at risk.

7SIGNAL quashes the biggest barrier to BYOD success by enabling personal devices to easily connect at all times.

7SIGNAL offers Wi-Fi performance management solutions that ensure connectivity issues don’t prevent hospitals from delivering exceptional patient care. Contact us to learn about becoming a 7SIGNAL Connected Hospital.

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