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What do you do when there's no app for that?

John Cox | Aug. 10, 2012
Companies and IT groups are scrambling to find or build well-designed mobile apps to realize the full promise of mobilized business processes.

Many companies have no choice but to rely on their key software suppliers to embrace mobility. Bayada Home Health Care, in Moorestown, N.J., adopted a Web-based clinical application, from Homecare Homebase LLC, which let home-visiting nurses fill in data online, eliminating millions of pages of paper documentation each year. Initially for Windows Mobile devices, the vendor switched to Android. And Bayada leaped at the chance to put it on tablets, specifically the 7-inch Samsung Galaxy 2. In partnership with its main wireless carrier, T-Mobile, Bayada has deployed them to about 2,500 nurses.

This one app, plus email, and a few effective tools -- like a predictive typing app, called SwiftKey, which cut virtual keystrokes by 50% to as much as 75% -- is almost the entire mobile value proposition for Bayada, according to Andrew Gentile, the company's associate director for the home health operating policy office. Next up: voice-to-text tools for adding notes and comments.

The iTunes App Store has yet to provide much benefit for specialty pharmaceutical company Hawthorn Pharmaceuticals, of Madison, Mo., which deployed iPads to 120 sales people. Like Bayada, Hawthorn leverages a line-of-business app, in this case the iPoint CRM application, from Pharmaceutical Operations Provider (POP). Beyond that, it's been hard to find and evaluate other apps, and the long-standing practice of having a standard stack of apps may be fading away, says Clay Hilton, Hawthorn's director of IT.

"There are hundreds of thousands of apps out there," he says. "What do I need to look at? And if I do invest in app X for my business, is there a support infrastructure for that?" One week, he says, you can find a basic PDF reader; the next week, a more generalized reader with a wider range of features; and the week after that, a reader that also does some content creation.

Another unexpected difference is that Hawthorn, into its first year of iPad use, still has not standardized on a suite of office software for mobile users. Instead, it's left that decision up to managers and users in the various sales regions. "I would have expected more pushback from our regional managers," Hilton says. "But it really hasn't been like that. People are just doing their own thing. We have 20% or less who are using some kind of office suite."

This is all new territory for users and IT alike, and another example from The Ottawa Hospital shows just how new. A nurse in the hospital's wound care unit became fed up with repeatedly changing patients' bandages, she would remove them when the doctor came to examine the wound, and then redress the wound afterwards, recalls Potter. At one point, a doctor asked her to remove a bandage and heard a word rarely used by nurses to physicians: "No." Instead, she asked him to look at the patient's electronic record on his iPad.


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