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The mobile revolution isn't new to many agencies. Laptops and BlackBerrys have been standard issue for many government executives for the last decade. What is different, however, is the widespread use of smartphones and tablet computers. Both agencies and citizens hold new and more immediate expectations because of these devices, and the government must adapt to this technololgy. In our special report, Gov 3.0: It's Mobile, Federal News Radio explores how some agencies are meeting the demand internally and externally for mobile devices and apps. The challenge, like any new technology, is ensuring these devices actually help meet mission goals and don't become just another shiny toy.
VA's mobile projects put iPads in hands of doctors - and patients
Thursday - 12/6/2012, 6:04pm EST
The Veterans Affairs Department's mobile projects, which have centered on deploying devices and applications to improve veteran healthcare, aim to do both.
The department's "Clinic-in-Hand" program, which will launch early next year, will deploy iPads to family caregivers of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.
The iPads are pre-programmed with a suite of apps designed to improve care and provide tips for veterans and their caregivers. About 1,000 people have signed up for the pilot project, said Kathleen Frisbee, the director of Web and Mobile Solutions at the Veterans Health Administration.
VA convened focus groups made up of veterans and their families to determine which apps to develop and include on the devices. About 10 apps were selected. They include a pain-management tool, a PTSD app and a prescription-refill app.
But VA isn't only deploying mobile devices outside the agency. Increasingly, VA doctors and nurses are eschewing clipboards and prescription pads in favor of mobile options.
Whether the iPad is in the hand of a caregiver or a VA doctor, the overall mobile strategy is guided by three major goals, Frisbee said.
- Produce a secure environment for deploying mobile apps. "And that was accomplished through our architecture where everything is doubly and triply encrypted," Frisbee said. "And also mobile-device management software, which we are deploying."
- Create an infrastructure that supports collaborative applications development, including using shared services to encourage reusing and retooling software code, she said. VA accomplished this, in part, by creating a cloud-hosted development environment, Frisbee said.
- Design the apps. "We're thinking of this not as discrete apps, discrete entities, but as suites of apps that work together to meet the objective of delivering better healthcare for our veterans," Frisbee said.
Another guiding principle of VA's mobile strategy is to be device-agnostic.
Initially, apps were designed for Apple's mobile operating system, iOS, Frisbee said. But the long-term strategy is to use HTML 5-compatible apps "by and large, unless there's a reason not to, so that they will work across mobile platforms," Frisbee said.
This is for two reasons. One, because veterans and their families (outside the pilot project) use VA apps on their own devices, which run on different software. Also, while VA medical staff in now provided with agency-furnished mobile devices, VA hopes at some point to allow bring-your-own-device for employees as well, Frisbee said.
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