One Enterprise's Two-Year Apple Mobile Makeover

Apple gadgets aren't fit for the enterprise? RehabCare begs to differ: This healthcare provider embraces iPhones, iPads and iPod Touches and relies on custom-built iOS apps to improve patient care and beat up the competition.

Wed, December 01, 2010

CIO — RehabCare CIO Dick Escue's journey to become a mobile enterprise Apple (AAPL) shop started two years ago, and now he's developing critical iOS apps for some 8,000 iPod Touches, 700 iPhones and 120 iPads. All tallied, three iOS apps will touch every facet of RehabCare's business, from improving patient care to winning new business.

Publicly traded RehabCare employs 19,000 workers, operates 35 acute care hospitals and rehab facilities, and outsources therapists around the country. It must comply with both the stringent Sarbanes-Oxley Act and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

But is Apple really enterprise ready? "There's this myth IT people perpetuate that these Apple devices can't work in the enterprise," Escue says, adding, "We get so many benefits from doing it in the cloud and leveraging consumer technology."

Why CIOs Should Take a Bite of the Apple

Some enterprise IT groups have lamented the coming of Apple's consumer products and even thrown up walls to slow the march, only to be thwarted. But RehabCare is proof that some companies (even highly regulated ones) can rely on new-fangled consumer devices and apps.

For the first time, Escue says, his IT department is showing a kind of flexibility and teamwork with the business side that doesn't cause extreme tension. His team builds mobile apps quickly and lets workers use Apple devices for personal use.

[ Find out why one company is ditching sales laptops for iPads, reports | Disaster-proof your mobile app before rollout (reg req'd). ]

Therapists use apps on their iPod Touches that make their job easier, while business folks with iPhones and iPads act on referral opportunities ahead of the competition. Executives fire up a Citrix app on their iPhones or iPads to access corporate servers.

No longer does Escue force technology on workers, which would often lead to the dreaded "change management" adoption hurdle. Instead, workers actually want the technology. "They love the devices," Escue says. "User acceptance with consumer tech is instant."

By supporting consumer tech, CIOs can transform their IT department's negative image, he says. "We decided early on that we were not going to be this department that keeps saying no to everything," Escue says, "We're going to figure out how to make this work."

iPhone and iPad Apps Bring in Business

Only a couple of years ago, RehabCare employees responsible for visiting hospitals and pre-screening potential patients in order to offer appropriate services took an average of five hours to fill out seven paper forms and fax them to multiple parties. Like rats scurrying in a paper maze, RehabCare and its competitors raced to be the first to match patients with services.

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