Mobile matters in healthcare: Consumer or enterprise?

April 25, 2018
Chris Sullivan Global Healthcare Practice Lead,
Zebra Technologies

Today’s clinical health environment is moving rapidly toward the integration of mobility technology, like handheld mobile computers, to improve staff communication and collaboration, provide instant access to patient health information, and to help ensure verification accuracy during the process of the ‘5 rights’ of medication administration at a patient’s bedside. Clinical mobility technology is also helping caregivers reduce manual work steps associated with administrative responsibilities and is enabling clinicians to spend more time directly with their patients.

According to a recent study1, it’s expected that by 2022, 9 out of 10 clinicians will be using mobile devices, indicating that device selection will be one of the most important decisions healthcare organizations make in the coming years to help tackle issues such as the growing aging population, staff shortages, and rising costs.

Generally speaking, there are three kinds of clinical mobility solutions healthcare organizations can select from:

  • Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) allows clinicians to bring their own personal devices for work-related use.
  • Consumer Brand Devices can be purchased and maintained by hospitals for clinician use.
  • Enterprise Brand Devices can be purchased and maintained by hospitals for clinician use, eliminating the need for caregivers to use their personal consumer devices.

Choosing the right device for your healthcare workers in a hospital setting can help maximize the success of a healthcare mobility deployment by increasing workforce productivity, task accuracy, and return on investment (ROI). On the other hand, selecting the wrong device can result in decreased productivity, frustrated user experiences, and increased safety risks.

It’s important to review key criteria when making this decision and to understand the differences between consumer and enterprise-class devices when deciding which solution is best for your organization’s mobile requirements.

Data security

Hospitals are expected to comply with patient privacy protection and data security regulations that protect sensitive patient health-related information. More than 2,100 patient deaths per year are linked to data breaches at hospitals, according to a researcher at Vanderbilt University2 as part of research analysis on data from the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services. Given that consumer brand devices are not typically designed for a healthcare-purposed environment, it is more challenging and labor-intensive for hospitals to protect against cybersecurity breaches and ransomware attacks. Enterprise-class mobile devices are designed for large organizations and more easily enable centralized device management to help prevent these serious risks.

Infection risks

Mobile devices travel from room-to-room and patient-to-patient, making it critical that adequate disinfection is possible to help stop the spread of infections. Hospital-designed enterprise devices are typically disinfectant-ready and offer proper ingress protection sealing to prevent chemicals from entering the device and damaging it. This is not an option for most consumer devices and puts caregivers in the uneasy predicament of choosing between the safety of their device or the safety of their co-workers and patients.

Patient care delivery

Two key mobile device features pivotal to a healthcare setting are barcode scanning and battery life.

Scanning is used to positively identify patients, medication, and specimens to help prevent errors that can result in higher costs, patient illness, and even death. Full-shift battery power is imperative for any clinician who is providing patient care to perform critical duties that involve patient safety, without risking interruption. Unlike consumer devices, most enterprise-grade devices are geared toward the professional worker, and deliver both high-performance, industrial strength scanning, and the necessary battery performance required in a healthcare setting.


At first glance, consumer-grade and enterprise-grade mobile devices appear to be comparable in cost for a hospital organization, but if you take a closer look, enterprise devices are on average 33% less3 expensive and as a result can save hospitals hundreds of thousands of dollars annually.


While mobile device technology has revolutionized modern life, enabled human progression, and delivered societal innovation in many areas, healthcare organizations are just beginning to harness its potential. Consumer-brand devices have inherent disadvantages when compared to enterprise-grade devices specifically built for healthcare workers. Hospital IT directors should put careful thought into selecting the right, best-in-class enterprise brand device to help improve staff productivity, communication, and enhance the patient experience.


  3. Mobile Device TCO Models for Line of Business Solutions; Volume 1/Track 7: Enterprise Mobile Device TCO; VDC Research Group, Inc.; Mobile and Wireless Practice; February 2013

Chris Sullivan has more than 20 years of healthcare industry leadership experience in strategy, marketing, and sales positions. He joined Zebra Technologies in June 2015.

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