VA beefs up smart-phone pilot program

The Veterans Affairs Department recently expanded a pilot program to equip its clinical staff with iPhones and iPads. If the effort is successful, it might lead to widespread deployments across the department, VA officials said.

Launched in early 2011, the program began as a small trial of about 100 iOS devices in the Washington D.C. area, Horace Blackman, CIO for VA’s Central Office (VACO) and director of VACO IT support services, told GCN.

But the potential for the effort quickly became apparent and late last year, the pilot was expanded to cover 1,000 clinical and support staff.

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With the option to bump up to 1,500 devices, the program’s core consists of 600 devices issued to clinicians and support staff at the Veteran’s Health Administration. Another 100 devices have been issued to an "innovation team" that supports the health care group by writing and developing apps for the devices. The group is also working on developing apps that can be rolled out to the veteran population, Blackman said.

There are about 100 users on the VA Benefits side. These personnel are determining how the smart phones and tablets can be integrated into delivering health care benefits and services, Blackman said. The remaining 200 smart phones and tablets are split between VA headquarters, the National Cemetery Organization and several other parts of VA.

Besides the Apple smart phones and tablets, VA is also using the Good for Enterprise container, which allows users to securely access e-mail, the Quick Office suite and browse the Web. The container ensures that there is no data leakage from the devices, which is a very important consideration for VA, Blackman said.

 “We have to clearly understand where we’re going with these devices, otherwise the cost of rolling these things out could become significantly prohibitive,” he said.


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