27th October 2013


Written by Mark Austin

Mark Austin CIO of Bedford Hospital Trust takes us through the case for and against Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) and comes up with a clear-cut conclusion to a subject that provokes debate and diverse opinions.

It is understandable that Bring Your Own Devices can create consternation with information governance professionals within the NHS.

Lax regulations, or more precisely the implementation of those rules, can and have led to embarrassing and costly incidents.  One doesn’t want the media showing your organisation up (to put it mildly) and affecting your career if you happen to have responsibility for these matters. 

However, BYOD has its place in the NHS.

Let’s make sure what we are talking about before we go further.  I am not referring to laptops.  It is more mobiles and tablets that I am concerned about.

There has to be rules, whatever device we are specifying.  And we have to acknowledge there are risks with BYOD. 

There are risks with any device carrying information, whether it is issued by the hospital or not.

So, why do I think we need to put more trust in our staff to use BYODs?

Well, firstly NHS staff need to be by their nature sensitive to risk.

You cannot eliminate risk altogether although you can manage it.  So staff with the right training, guidance and approach are going to take precautions with the information they access.

Once you accept this view as being acceptable and sensible it is possible to look at the advantages of BYOD.

Firstly, we can point to cost.  NHS budgets have to deliver better care within tight budgets.

BOYD certainly saves money and with staff being able to use devices they know and feel comfortable with they should be able to operate more effectively.  They should be able to use spare moments more effectively and not compartmentalise their activities according to where they are on the site.

Moreover wi-fi access within hospitals can be patchy and actually hinder work.  BYOD can overcome this handicap.

Yes, there are concerns, for example, viruses, but these can be generally managed.

When smart phones and tablets are more powerful than many computers that NHS staff use, then we need to think differently about BYOD.

BYOD is not a silver bullet, but it is something we should use and certainly not dismiss before careful appraisal has been undertaken.

For me, BYOD is a positive thing and one that should be implemented whenever and wherever possible.

Mark Austin can be contacted on mark.austin2@nhs.net


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