St. Elizabeth Health Care CIO makes the case for tablets in the enterprise

Roy French was not ready for the dogs. There were two of them, they were about 39 inches high and they looked to weigh about 180 lbs. They were, to put it mildly, a little intimidating as French walked in to visit a patient with a nurse.

“I was glad to get home,” joked French, the CIO of St. Elizabeth Health Care, who recalled the encounter during an event hosted by Samsung Canada at the Toronto Region Board of Trade earlier this week. Going on the road for home care visits is a regular part of the routine for French, as well as anyone he hires within his IT department.

“It can be very humbling,” he said, “but you can come back and understand what’s going on on a daily basis.”

Roy French
Roy French

That insight informs the mobile computing strategy at St. Elizabeth Health Care, which delivers services across the country and employs some 8,000 people. These are mostly remote workers, who are being equipped with Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S LTE tablets to eliminate some of the more non-productive administration tasks.

“(Offering home care) is very solitary experience. You don’t have the same camaraderie that you would have working in a hospital setting,” said French, who has been profiled by what was then CIO Canada magazine several times. “It’s very important to take a step back and look at what your business processes are. You don’t want to overlie technology on top of a bad business process.”

While some organizations that are thinking “mobile-first” may primarily target smartphone apps and use cases, French said smartphones are too small to handle some of the work St. Elizabeth employees need to do. This includes providing access to policies and procedures, video training, forms and access to the organization’s back-end systems while offering a good user experience.

‘Neglected’ devices

St. Elizabeth Health Care’s situation made sense to Sanjay Khanna, senior analyst for mobile phones at Toronto-based IDC Canada. He told the TRBOT crowd he expects to see more organizations wake up to the tablet’s potential as an enterprise device.

“It’s been a bit neglected. It has not been growing as fast as other form factors,” he said, adding that concerns around security and other issues have made the move to mobilize enterprise applications somewhat slow in Canada.

“You have to look further out and away from the 18-month cycle,” he said. “In fact, you have to think further out to a five-year time cycle to see how you’re going to get the most advantage of your mobile enterprise solution.”

For French, what he called “mobile 2.0” at St. Elizabeth is already underway, but he’s hoping for a lot more as time goes on.

“Home care is still predominantly paper-based. In homes, you still see a paper chart,” he said. “What we want to get to is capturing electronic data at the point of care.”

Security issues, meanwhile, not only include warding off hackers but making sure information isn’t inadvertently leaked out, French added. He referred to a safe driving app staff wanted to use that would read e-mail messages aloud when nurses were in the car. Upon further investigation, however, French’s team learned that the messages were streamed to a location in the U.S. and converted into a wave file.

“There was absolutely nothing in the app store that shows you that happens,” he said. “It’s great to encourage innovation, but you have to be very judicious about what apps they run.”

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