Tenet Health deploys system to support 1,000 handhelds

Tenet Health deploys system to support 1,000 handhelds

When it comes to mobile devices, one type does not always meet the needs of an enterprise, let alone the personal preferences of hundreds or thousands of users

When it comes to mobile devices, one type does not always meet the needs of an enterprise, let alone the personal preferences of hundreds or thousands of users. That's why Jeff Lett, senior director of technical operations at Tenet Health Care Corp. in Santa Barbara, Calif., decided he needed a system that supports a wide range of mobile devices running multiple operating systems and using a variety of wireless networks. And he needed one that didn't require a torturous setup and configuration of back-end systems for each device. Lett said he found his answer with SureWave Enterprise Server software from JP Mobile Inc. in Dallas. He said the software acts as the "glue" to tie a variety of mobile devices into his back-end systems.

That glue is important, Lett said, in an organization as decentralized as Tenet, where some users prefer BlackBerry e-mail pagers from Research In Motion Ltd. in Waterloo, Ontario, running Microsoft Corp.'s Pocket PC operating system and others use handhelds running Palm Inc.'s Palm OS. Tenet has 115,000 employees and operates 114 hospitals nationwide.

The JP Mobile software provides Lett with a behind-the-firewall system that allows him to create a device-neutral network that connects all of those devices, as well as phones from companies such as Nokia Corp. that run on an operating system from Symbian Ltd. in London.

Sam Bhavnani, an analyst at ARS Inc., in La Jolla, Calif., said the system developed by JP Mobile makes sense because in the mobile and wireless world, "there is no open dominant standard. Anything that makes [mobile] devices interoperable is a good thing."

Lett said e-mail is the first application he plans to support. This week he will deploy 60 of the more than 300 RIM handhelds Tenet plans to issue to employees. Lett said he plans to eventually roll out 1,000 handhelds from a number of manufactures to senior executives in the corporation and its hospitals.

Lett said he views the JP Mobile software as a "platform for growth" that could support delivery of mobile applications to the Tenet workforce.

Dayakar Puskoor, CEO of JP Mobile, said his company's server software incorporates the SyncML standard, which offers data mobility between disparate handheld or wireless devices through a common language. SyncML is supported by a number of major wireless vendors including Nokia, IBM Corp., Motorola Inc. and Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. Ltd. Puskoor said synchronization of data on a handheld and information on a server or desktop is essential for mobile users.

Puskoor said the SureWave software also incorporates J2ME for data portability and supports back-end e-mail systems running on Microsoft Exchange and Lotus Notes.

To support SureWave, Tenet had to install four servers that are located at a Perot Systems Corp. facility in Plano, Texas, Lett said. Tenet outsourced its IT to Perot.

Lett declined to say how much Tenet has spent on its new mobile system.

Once the first 1,000 devices are deployed, Lett said he intends to start looking at what applications among the thousands that Tenet users to deploy among mobile users. In particular, he believes demand for e-mail within Tenet will drive the use of handhelds.

"It could get real big, real fast," he said. "Ten thousand [users] is a realistic figure to begin with." -- Computerworld (US online)

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