MDM Keeps Home Health Staff Connected
Edited by Jennifer Dennard
A mobile device management (MDM) solution allows Advanced Home Care to safely and securely support iOS and Android devices, enabling employees to meet demands for real-time connected care.
Advanced Home Care (AHC) is a nonprofit provider of home health services, durable medical equipment, oxygen, and infusion services, with 35 branches located throughout five states in the southeast. AHC’s staff of 1,600 full-time employees care for more than 30,000 patients daily throughout that region. The opening of its first Georgia-based branch early this year is a clear indication the company is looking to increase its market share in the area. As such, it is also in the process of meeting the mobile device needs of its growing workforce. The company is currently working through strategically rolling out mobile devices to sales staff, respiratory technicians, seating technicians, and delivery drivers, with an eye to possibly equipping nurses, physical therapists, and speech therapists with iPads in the near future. Allen Helms, CIO at AHC, explains how the implementation of mobile device management (MDM) technology has helped the home health company better enable reliable and secure communication amongst staff and customers and successfully keep up with industrywide demand for connected care in real time.
Q: What prompted you to seek out an MDM solution?
Helms: I think there’s a natural pressure in the healthcare industry to not only be more mobile via devices like smartphones and tablets, but also to be more Android and iOS-based. Not many folks are developing solutions and applications for BlackBerry, which was all we supported three to five years ago. Today, iOS and Android devices are more popular with consumers, and our main purpose for implementing mobile device management was to support these devices and their apps in order to provide a better overall experience for our end users.
We also have several smaller initiatives to digitize our sales and marketing materials so that sales staff can show those documents to referral sources and doctors on an iPad. We have a need for electronic signature of documents and collecting co-pays via credit card as well.
Q: Did your telecom provider assist you in making a purchasing decision?
Helms: Yes, we asked Verizon for recommendations on MDM solutions. Because of the interaction they’ve had with customers that already had implemented similar technologies, they were able to recommend three vendors — MobileIron, Good, and AirWatch.
Pricing was definitely a factor. Ultimately, we felt AirWatch offered the best solution with the best management user interface for our needs. Its solution also had the most flexibility in managing the device, pushing apps and Web clips, and securing the device. Scalability was also important. Based on the number of BlackBerrys in use, we knew we would start out small and grow over time. The MDM solution we chose had to support thousands of devices, and the pricing structure needed to allow us to make a minimum investment with the option to add licenses as needed.
The AirWatch solution also provides an option for the future to move from on-premise hosting to the cloud. This provides us flexibility to move our MDM services to a cloud-based solution if and when we desire to do so. This flexibility is important for all companies, but when you consider our growth and ever-changing landscape, we have to be nimble.
Q: How did the new MDM technology benefit your organization?
Helms: We implemented MDM almost in tandem with rolling out mobile devices to certain staff members. It has made the 175 staff members with mobile devices — primarily smartphones and tablets — more productive. They are now more responsive because of their ability to access emails, contacts, and calendars. And as I mentioned earlier, we are now able to capture e-signatures and process credit cards more accurately in the field. In addition, we are now able to integrate with our SIEM (system information and event management) solution to log device and console events, which helps us ensure security and compliance.
Content Locker, which is a module of the AirWatch MDM solution, is a huge value-add for our sales staff. It enables them to automatically upload the most recent version of sales and marketing materials on their mobile devices so they aren’t showing outdated materials to prospects in the field.
We are also better able to maintain security of our mobile devices and the data on those devices through password protection and remote wiping. As we do more BYOD, the ability to “sandbox” — or remotely wipe off only AHC-related data — is also a big deal.
We have patient-facing respiratory and seating technicians currently trying iPads to determine if that device is the best for remotely connecting to our EMR. Right now, the EMR is only accessible remotely using Citrix, which doesn’t provide the best user interface. This trial will help us to determine whether the iPad will help these technicians be more productive and provide more real-time communication regarding the patient.
Q: What type of return on investment have you seen since implementing MDM?
Helms: It has given us the ability to provide seamless access to our corporate Wi-Fi network, which has enabled us to scale back on our data plans. Our users appreciate that for the increased network speeds.
Regarding Content Locker, we haven’t been using it very long, so I can’t give you specific numbers, but we are anticipating the reduction in printing costs will be huge for AHC. We’re now displaying and emailing PowerPoint presentations and marketing materials on the iPads instead of printing these out.
Q: Does the MDM solution integrate with any other AHC system?
Helms: Not at the moment, but there is early talk of deploying smartphones and/or tablets to clinical field staff in conjunction with an upgrade to McKesson Home Care, our clinical patient records system. That upgrade would give our nurses, physical therapists, and speech therapists more scheduling features and functionality. There’s value in their being able to have quicker contact for scheduling purposes. We’re still in the preliminary research phase on that decision.
Q: What implementation best practices and lessons learned would you share with other home health providers?
Helms: It’s important to remember that sometimes implementing MDM isn’t a standalone activity. Oftentimes it occurs in conjunction with rolling out new mobile devices to several different groups of employees. This entails selecting the right kind of device for that subset of employees, timing the rollout of those devices in a strategic manner, and then adding the MDM component. For example, we recently got approval to give all of our delivery drivers mobile access to email, so not only will we be adding another 100 to115 AirWatch users, but also we’ll be selecting devices best suited to that group and deciding on the best roll-out strategy. You also can’t forget about the typical HIPAA considerations, such as employees’ access to Wi-Fi on these mobile devices and how these devices are going to be locked.
Creating profiles for various users was a somewhat unexpected and time-consuming process. We had to look at our users by role, device, and permissions. The devices and permissions for sales and delivery drivers are likely going to be different, so we had to identify and accommodate those differences by setting up profiles. We never had to do that for our BlackBerrys. We had to ask ourselves, “What do we want this group to be able to do? What do we not want this group to be able to do? Do we want this group to be able to change passwords?” You look at those questions by user group and device. What AirWatch will allow us to do on iOS devices is a little different from what it will allow us to do on Android devices. We knew we were going to have more control and flexibility with MDM; we just didn’t think through the profile process until we started implementation.