Healthcare IT Blog

BYOD - Bring Your Own Device or Bring Your Own Disease (Technological Typhoid Mary)

Published on 06/03/2013 by Chris Lichtenberg
Category: Healthcare IT

I can’t claim credit for the full title.  It was actually taken from a Tech Republic article about viruses and other nasties that personal portable devices can bring.  In fact, if you Google “Bring Your Own Disease”, you’ll find many other related articles.

The joy of BYOD is that you can reduce capital expenses for devices like phones, laptops, and tablets. And training employees on the platform is reduced because they are already familiar with the device.  Finally, with the right policies, development plan, and virtualization, the IT department can allow for most personal devices to access the work network to increase productivity.

Sounds great!  What could possibly go wrong?  Well, for one, unless the IT staff members are clones of the Odd Couple’s Felix Unger with his ever ubiquitous can of disinfectant, there are some viruses that IT cannot clean. One thing about personal devices is that they are really personal. We carry them everywhere and one occasion share them with people, in sickness and in health.

What hospital CEO wants to find out that the reason a staph infection happened was due to the staff?  Everywhere you look in the hospital, there are cans of disinfectant or bottles of hand sanitizer present to mitigate the spreading of bacteria.  You find them near stairwell doors, elevator buttons and strategically placed around bathroom doors. Anywhere you will put your hand, there is Felix’s can of disinfectant to limit liability.

So how do you ensure that a doctor’s or nurse’s iPhone, iPad, or Android device is not a technological Typhoid Mary? In truth, you really don’t know if the last person who touched it, breathed on it or coughed at it was as careful of germs as the hospital wants you to be. Do you want to take that chance?

In one job at a pharmaceutical company, I learned how to truly sterilize equipment. The process was to immerse the item in a chemical solution and then bake it at little over 400° F for about an hour. Somehow I don’t think that would go over well with someone’s $700 iPad or iPhone.  Also, I doubt those devices have the appropriate Ingress Protection Rating to survive that.

Fortunately, there is technology out there that will help you sterilize a personal device, and alleviate the owner’s and CEO’s fear. You could utilize something basic like a Microban film covering that allows for a disinfectant wipe and prevents seepage into the device.  Or you could go high tech and use UV rays for cleaning as Ready-Dock does. But technology can only go so far.  The human element needs to be in line to ensure an anti-bacterial policy is being enforced.  As the saying goes, “there’s an app for that”. There are apps that will alert you when it is time to clean your personal device.  This, along with a little education, may be just the thing to help your staff channel their inner Felix Unger and prevent a technological Typhoid Mary.

Chris Lichtenberg is a Technical Consultant at Park Place International, with 13 years’ experience supporting MEDITECH hospitals.  He specializes in Barcode Printing, Advanced Data Capture, Verification, and Mobility Solutions.  In addition to printing and peripherals, Chris is knowledgeable and experienced in a variety of MEDITECH-certified technologies, including Cisco, HP, DELL, EMC, VMware, and Bridgehead backup solutions.