Mark Crandall, CIO, Consulate Health Care
As a national leading provider of senior healthcare services, the Consulate Health Care IT department focuses on three core drivers—improved care coordination, better clinical outcomes and the protection of our patients’ health information. We have spent three years laying the groundwork for an all-encompassing framework for simple, stable, and secure connectivity to the clinical and financial systems. This allows practitioners to achieve the company mission of providing service with ‘Our Hearts and Hands.’
Usually, employees in IT are looking for ways to apply emergent technologies in their day to day job. We are fortunate as a company to use our size and scale for the direct application of the latest technology to healthcare that improves the lives of the 40,000 patients that we serve each year. This translates directly into patient satisfaction, reduction of un-necessary return trips to the hospitals, and keeps our patients (and their families) comfortable while they are in our care centers. A lot of people don’t recognize how much more we are able to do with mobile applications at the bedside for our patients as the technology and applications have evolved over the past ten years.
However, this was not a quick trip to mobility. Some of our care centers were built thirty years ago, before the idea (let alone the practical application) of high-speed internet connectivity to share lab results, wound management data, and care plans were devised. These care centers were not built with high speed data cables in mind, so it was the availability of stable connectivity over-the-air that gave these centers capabilities. This would have cost an order of magnitude more if we were forced to re-cable the 110-bed facilities. So, 2014 was the year that Consulate Health Care invested in outfitting all 200+ care centers, the Corporate Office in Maitland, FL, and the two regional offices in Atlanta, GA and Roanoke, VA. Moreover, with one platform for secure connectivity to our two data centers is located in Orlando and Atlanta.
“Next-generation firewalls, exploit mitigation, and the extension of the security platform to mobile endpoints is paramount to the successful BYOD application”
But, our workforce needed to change too! Paper charts would no longer be stored behind the desks in the nurse’s stations. Every practitioner’s device, even those not owned by Consulate, would be required to securely and efficiently connect to our network for ease of access to patient data and ease of communication across the continuum of care. The BYOD phenomenon, while prevalent across industries worldwide to lower capital and operational costs and increase employee satisfaction, was not easy for Consulate Health Care. It is a necessity to support the hundreds of medical directors, rounding doctors, and government agency staff that enter our care centers to help our patients. 2015 and 2016 have been dedicated to the implementation of a single Electronic Health Record (EHR) platform, enabling connectivity across the provider continuum as well as with our most-critical vendor partners.
The building blocks for a successful BYOD program for employees are clear—establish devices that are supported, maintain and enforce a clear security policy through MDM/MAM, plan for the separation of ownership of personal vs. business content. Add the complexity to allow secure patient-record access to sanctioned third-party personnel (whether they are rounding doctors or government surveyors) and the infrastructure becomes the most important piece of the puzzle! Then, next-generation firewalls, exploit mitigation, and the extension of the security platform to mobile endpoints is paramount to the successful BYOD application. Remember the emerging technologies mentioned earlier in the article? It is the challenges that lie within a mobile workforce that allows Consulate to keep its engineers focused and sharp on the latest technologies. But all to suit a particular business purpose—to allow our practitioners and doctors to have secure access to the data they need right at the bedside of our patients.
So where are we as a company and IT Department heading next? Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) takes BYOD to the next level. Rather than just considering mobile phones, tablets, and phablets as our mobile endpoints, a remote corporate workforce lends itself to secure, controlled desktops that can be accessed from virtually any device. We already serve up a container for all applications to the majority of our corporate staff. A shared-desktop VDI model allows us to dramatically enhance the user experience while maintaining the security and stability of our secure network and applications. Remember, we need to be thinking about not only our employees, but how our third-party practitioners, dietary professionals, and surveyors also take advantage of these capabilities. It is an exciting time for Consulate Health Care as we innovate for our workforce. Whether they are able to care directly for our patients or support them remotely–it is a challenge and a responsibility that we take to heart each and every day.