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Michael Coffin Posts

Medical Errors

Click this infographic to access the full article from The BMJ.


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BYOD Best Practices


A business leader from a large health plan recently called me to discuss a BYOD (bring your own device) mobile enterprise strategy for his company. Like a growing number of healthcare executives, he recognizes that more computing is now done with mobile devices than with PCs, and that his entire workforce is already device-enabled for the mobile enterprise of the future — and will remain so.

Today, 75% of smart phone owners use and rely on mobile apps. According to research firm Frost & Sullivan, the mHealth sector is at a significant inflection point due to remarkably high smart device ownership in the healthcare workforce. I mentioned this research to my client to support his decision to get in front of the mobility curve, and we agreed the moment is right to capture this opportunity.

The scary part is how to do it. While the cost and efficiency benefits of BYOD are becoming clear, there are concerns over enterprise data security and control on employee-owned devices. Fear of the unknown is a powerful deterrent to progress, especially in regulated industries.

Fortunately — and thanks to the consumer mobile industry that blazed the trail for enterprise — there are ways to reduce risk, maintain platform compatibility and protect proprietary data that passes through non-owned devices. After gathering additional information on the company’s needs and meeting with key stakeholders, I made four initial recommendations:

1. Containerize

Develop enterprise apps that isolate enterprise information on the device, pushing data to the cloud frequently and using event-driven caching functions that minimize device-stored data. Device-owning employees can enjoy full functionality of both employer and personal apps, and keep enterprise data separated from their devices. Our current technology can do this.

2. Build, don’t buy or rent

The development cost for custom enterprise mobility solutions is more affordable than you think, and the benefits outweigh any temporal cost savings. Compatibility is a major downstream cost factor, and a custom app typically pays for itself on this metric alone. A custom solution integrates more seamlessly with legacy platforms because it is designed to do so. Data security and control is also better because it is optimized for specific risks. And most importantly, you don’t have vendor dependence issues.

3. Use the cloud

Today, cloud-based web apps support an excellent user experience and secure data transport. Five years ago we needed native apps to reduce latency and ensure access. Now we enjoy near-ubiquitous carrier and WiFi availability, and with hash key-based encryption technology we can build mobile tools that are fast, secure and that centralize app management to a single product instead of one for each device type. And you don’t need consumer app markets to distribute them.

4. Give your employees control

Since your workforce is doing you the favor of saving you money by letting you use their smart devices to conduct business, return the favor by providing user controls that let employees decide when to logoff the company grid. Employees like knowing that with a couple of finger taps they can disconnect from the office, and the symbolic value of this is as powerful as it is practical. While Big Brother scenarios are more common in the movies than in real life, it’s something people feel and privately think about. Trust your people by letting them decide when they are connected to you and when they are not.

BYOD may be in its infancy but it’s growing fast. Smart strategic decisions now will save time, money and false starts, and allow progressive companies to quickly enjoy cost and efficiency benefits.

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Innovate with meaning

I’m often asked how to approach the process of envisioning, designing and building mobile digital products. In my experience, the conventional feature/functions/benefit paradigm is applied too soon, resulting in bland products that users ignore –or that completely miss that target mark. There is also much debate (usually motivated by financial risk) about how far in front of current demand a design team should go, especially when resources are limited.

My approach to innovation, regardless of budget, is to begin and end with semantics. What will the product or solution mean to the user? The functional benefits may be about efficiency, speed and convenience, but that typically is not why a user comes to trust and depend on a mobile product. There are reasons above the syntactic level that create the user-product bond we strive to achieve. There is one sharp product hook that attaches itself deeply to meaning, and that hook is what you must discover to have a successful product launch.

Begin by filling white boards with expressions of meaning and purpose; with feelings and impressions that flow from experiencing a product that serves meaning first. Think of the personalities, archetypes and behaviors that occur at the point of use and role play those characters, first with team members and then with real target users. Then begin sketching what a product might look like that serves this meaning, and iterate with intensity. By innovating outward from the core of meaning, you are able to see needs that users have not yet expressed or even know that they will desire once you invent it.

As you progress toward MVP, you will naturally become more tactical and ground-level in your thinking. This is where the feature/function/benefit model works best, as it optimizes the design around the core meaning. Be sure to build in checkpoints along the way that confirm the design serves the meaning you have identified.

Sound too dreamy? It’s not, and this type of innovation is magnetically attractive to teams.


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Solvable problems in Healthcare

We have the technology and systems knowledge to reduce many of the quality of care problems plaguing the Healthcare industry. But proprietary software lock-in and the modernization risk it creates is delaying progress at a time when demand for health services is rising.

We can do better than this. It’s time to transform, to build technology bridges toward open platforms, and to collaborate.


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