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Why the Difference Between MDM, EMM Matters in Health IT

MDM and EMM are often used interchangeably, but as mobile technology matures, these terms have taken on two distinct meanings healthcare organizations need to know when implementing a mobility management solution.

By Elizabeth O'Dowd

- Medical professionals continue to use mobile devices in clinical settings, so choosing the correct mobility management solution is more important than ever. 

MDM vs EMM in healthcare

While the terms mobile device management (MDM) and enterprise mobility management (EMM) are used almost interchangeably, it’s important to understand the difference when selecting a mobility management solution.

The distinction between MDM and EMM can be traced back to Gartner’s 2014 Magic Quadrant. In 2014, Gartner declared that the mobile device management market had evolved into the enterprise mobility management market. While Gartner may have made the change to distinguish mobile device management from master data management in the use of the MDM acronym, the change of terminology stuck for the most part.

MDM was absorbed by EMM, and is now defined as a part of a larger mobility management solution. MDM is one of the four core capabilities that make up a complete EMM solution along with mobile application management (MAM), mobile content management (MCM), and identity and access management (IAM).

MDM is a life-cycle management technology that manages OS configuration, device provisioning, and remote access for troubleshooting. Any other mobility management needs, such as application or content management, are not covered by a stand-alone MDM solution.

Every EMM solution includes an MDM component, but MDM solutions do not offer everything that an EMM solution does. Most vendors now officially refer to their mobility management solutions as EMM solutions if they do more than just manage the device.

According to Gartner’s 2016 Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Mobility Suites, EMM is an encompassing solution that “enables organizations to integrate and manage mobile devices in their IT infrastructures.”

MDM is still used to refer to EMM solutions. Two market reports on the projected growth of mobility management were released within days of each other. ReportsnReports referred to the MDM market worth, but went on to talk about elements most commonly classified for EMM, such as application management and BYOD.

MarketsandMarkets reported a similar growth expected in EMM and BYOD solutions, stated that the EMM growth included MDM and other common EMM features. Both reports were essentially referring to the same industry, but calling it by different names.

While there is no right or wrong way to refer to mobility management solutions, it can be confusing to consumers when the terms are still used interchangeably especially because some vendors do offer different EMM and MDM solutions.   

While some organizations are only looking for and MDM solution, most organizations will need more than just device management for their mobility deployments. Healthcare organizations in particular need more extensive mobile solutions to ensure that electronic health records (EHRs) and protected health information (PHI) remains secure.

“Mobile devices extend or eliminate the notion of traditional organization boundaries, posing challenges that nearly all businesses regardless of sector or organization size,” HealthITSecurity.com reported . “As mobile devices have fully integrated into everyday life, they are permeating into the healthcare sphere as well. While these devices share the computing power and other advantages of traditional health IT, they present a risk.”

According to Gartner’s 2016 Magic Quadrant report, complete EMM solutions include:

  • Provisioning: EMM suites configure devices and applications for enterprise deployment and use, manage updates, and assist with device upgrade and retirement.

  • Auditing, tracking and reporting: EMM suites can track device inventories, settings and usage to verify compliance with enterprise policies and manage assets.

  • Enterprise data protection: EMM suites mitigate data loss, theft, employee termination or other incidents by adding controls for data encryption, data access rights, shared devices, application wrapping and containment, and device lockdown.

  • Support: EMM suites help IT departments troubleshoot mobile device problems through inventory, analytics and remote actions.

Healthcare organizations cannot allow employees to use mobile devices without a mobility management solution to provide security for data accessed by the device and securing remote connections. Unmanaged mobile devices leave a door open for hackers to access the healthcare network, leaving PHI vulnerable

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