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CHEO prescribes BYOD — bring-your-own-device

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"Doctors can now monitor patients, view X-rays, access lab results and more with their personal devices anywhere there's an Internet connection. The hospital is just one of the businesses improving productivity, thanks to the Bring Your Own Device movement. Read More.

Android devices, iPads and even BlackBerry PlayBooks have become a routine, and key, part of the way medicine is practised at the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario.

From home, office or any other spot with an Internet connection, an on-call neurosurgeon can use one of the mobile devices to see a patient's CT scan, make an immediate determination on how serious the trauma is and decide on a course of action.

"In the past, he would have to come into the hospital to look at that," said Dr. James King, medical director of informatics at CHEO. "It remarkably increases his access to that information. That would apply to any on-call service where you're doing X-rays or lab results."

Previously, doctors would have to find one of the desktop computers set up in various locations around the hospital and wait their turn to access electronic medical records. Or they would have to track down a patient's paper-based record, which could be missing information.

The new system allows doctors to get more timely and accurate information - which can mean vast improvements in the care they give patients.

For the hospital, there's a different benefit. It doesn't have to foot the bill for many of the costs associated with the new devices.

CHEO has jumped headfirst into a movement known in business circles as BYOD (bring your own device). The initiative was spurred by employees demanding that they be able to use the latest and greatest technologies available to do their jobs.

Gone are the days when only businesses could afford high-powered computers and similar devices, and people needed to go to work to get their hands on cutting-edge technology. Today, consumers are driving the industry and dictating to their employers the types of devices, software and services they need to access on a day-to-day basis.

But, for many employers already dealing with stretched budgets, the additional costs associated with giving staff the latest iPhone or Android devices just aren't palatable. The solution? Feel free to bring your own device to work.

At CHEO the approach has taken off.

"Devices should be chosen by the end-user. Very few businesses will ever be able to keep up with the consumer device world," said Tyson Roffey, chief information officer at CHEO.

"For us, our IT vision is all about access to the right information by the right people at the right time, regardless of the device."

CHEO employs more than 2,500 people and 500 doctors, residents and fellows. Around half of the doctors regularly use their devices to access records, look up lab results and even monitor patients remotely.

Roffey said the hospital simply couldn't keep up with demand from employees to provide the latest technology devices, especially doctors, who each have private practices, ties with academia and other outside work.

"Physicians aren't employees in the traditional way. They are really like consultants in an organization," said Roffey. "We don't have the same right to tell them how to work. They may have different technologies in their private clinics, they may have different technologies at home and they may have different technologies they use here.

"What the hospital could do is make the information available to those seeking it and then allow them to use their own devices to access that information. I can't tell them what to use."

Computing giant Intel Corp. adopted a BYOD model for employees last year. The company said productivity has improved, since employees are already familiar with their personal devices and require little training, and the move has saved the company as much as $3 million in operating costs.

Other corporations have found little or no savings by allowing employees to bring their own devices to work. However, no one has disputed that allowing employees to use their own technology makes them more mobile and more productive, which is why the movement is gaining steam.

Cloud computing company Citrix Systems Inc., which provided the web-based technology that allows CHEO to offer BYOD to its employees, says more than 34 per cent of Canadian companies already have policies in place to allow employees to bring in personal devices. Another 27 per cent of Canadian firms plan to roll out some form of BYOD initiative over the next 12 months.

Many businesses are moving toward the model because employees are already using their own phones and computers to get work done, regardless of whether a policy is in place, says Citrix. The company said the average Canadian owns and uses more than five electronic devices, including laptops, phones and tablets, each day."