Consumer-grade mobile device and BYOD policies

Aug. 1, 2014
It is indisputable that mobile computers help doctors, nurses and hospital staff improve the quality of patient care and save lives by providing immediate access to critical information. The question is which solution is better for a healthcare setting: a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy or deployment of enterprise-class devices owned by the hospital.

The media has written a number of articles about how hospitals can successfully implement BYOD programs – including secure messaging. However, these articles have not focused on the practical concerns surrounding the use of consumer-grade mobile devices in healthcare, namely, security, infection control and total cost of ownership. 

According to a recent study, 90 percent of Americans working in the healthcare industry use their personal smartphones for work. However, this can lead to privacy issues, especially since the survey also reported that 40 percent of those mobile devices were not password protected.

Purpose-built mobile devices that were developed for use in a hospital setting offer a number of benefits, including being disinfectant-ready, having a longer and predictable lifecycle, an extended battery life to last a full shift and user-changeable batteries. Many of these devices also come equipped with 1D/2D bar code scanners and charging accessories. They also are designed to provide the required levels of information security that consumer devices lack.

But what about the financial impact? At first glance, it appears that lower-cost, consumer-grade devices and BYOD programs might provide the most cost-effective mobility solution for hospitals. However, the opposite conclusion is apparent when one takes a closer look at the numbers. Consider the following facts: 


The total cost of ownership (TCO) assesses both direct and indirect costs related to an IT purchase in order to arrive at a final figure that will reflect the overall cost of purchase. It has been estimated that the five-year TCO for a consumer-grade device is more than 50 percent greater than that of a purpose-built mobile device. According to VDC Research, the annual five-year TCO of an enterprise-grade device is estimated to be $2,140 while the consumer-grade device will cost $3,236 over the same time period. By utilizing reliable enterprise-class devices that improve the productivity of hospital staff, hospitals can lower their total cost of ownership.


By factoring in lifecycles, hospitals can develop an “apples-to-apples” comparison of consumer versus enterprise-class device costs. One enterprise-class device, which is built to last 3-5 years, will cost approximately $1,500. The list price of a consumer-grade mobile device, which is expected to last 1-2 years, is roughly $250. Adding a “sled” that can provide appropriate bar code scanning capabilities for a healthcare environment will add another $600 to the cost. Because a minimum of two sleds and two consumer-grade mobile devices would be needed in the same timeframe, the cumulative total hardware costs of consumer-grade devices would total $1,900 to achieve the same results. That’s 25 percent more than the enterprise-class device. So, while that consumer-class device appears to be a less expensive choice, the hardware acquisition costs for enterprise-class devices are significantly less over the course of 3-5 years.


Aberdeen Group reported that a company with 1,000 mobile devices can expect to spend an average of an extra $170,000 per year to support BYOD. The following five well-hidden costs can result in a 33 percent increase in operational costs for BYOD initiatives:

1. Carrier billing is no longer aggregated, which can result in missed discount opportunities and larger monthly fees;

2. Increased time spent by IT departments to manage and secure corporate data on employee devices;

3. Increased support costs due to the increase in types of mobile devices and their durability levels;

4. Increased workload for other operational groups that are not normally impacted by mobility support;

5. Increased expense reports filed by employees for reimbursement of device-related expenses.

It is clear that enterprise-class devices deliver the best value. These purpose-built devices cost much less over the lifetime of the device and are able to better meet the unique needs of healthcare professionals in a hospital environment. Click here to learn more about selecting the right mobile device for healthcare environments.

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