Healthcare IT: Stop Sending PCs To Landfills - InformationWeek

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Healthcare // Leadership
09:06 AM
James Deck
James Deck
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Healthcare IT: Stop Sending PCs To Landfills

Stand up and say it with me: "It's not OK that my apps and data aren't everywhere I go, on every device I use."

When I visit health systems, payers, and even small medical groups, I notice that there are a lot of computers and advanced electronics everywhere. From an outsider's point of view, it may seem like healthcare really is in the 21st century.

However, those of us in the field know the truth. There is still a lot of work to be done, and somehow the IT bills keep piling up. From capital expenses to operational expenses, everywhere we look another technology bill is eating into profits -- and it still seems like we're always a step behind the times.

The most common feedback we receive on technology is that caregivers are just keeping up and trying to do their best. With all these computers around us and the cloud in front of us, is there any way we can cut costs?

To me, the answer is simple. There is a huge opportunity to cut technology costs, and it's right in front of our eyes: the computer.

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First, a quick rundown of where we are today with the computer. Let's face it: Computers -- as we used to think of them -- are on the way out. Apps are in, and you download those apps from a magical place called the cloud. Interestingly enough, these awesome devices all have three things in common: a central processing unit, memory, and long-term storage. So if the computer (as we know it) is on the way out, and tablets and smartphones are here to stay (for now), what conclusion can we reach?

Tablets, smartphones, and all the technology in between are simply computers of different sizes and shapes. Therefore, it's not technically true the computer that is on the way out; it's really just a shift in the way we use the computer. We want apps and our data with us everywhere we go, hassle-free and accessible at the push of a button. As I mentioned previously, we're also done with spending more money to get what we want. We've paid our dues, subscriptions, IT consultants, and more consultants to help us with our IT consultants. I hear it every day, and it's clear: You are simply done. I don't blame you, because I am, too.

The solution in my mind is simple. Stand up and say it with me: "It's not OK that my apps and data aren't everywhere I go, on every device I use." That felt kind of good, didn't it?

So where do we go from here? For starters, let's make a pact not to buy another computer. We already have so many lying around -- let's take the computers you would otherwise send to a landfill, simply install Linux, and configure them to access your desktop in the cloud with all your apps and data. And while we're at it, let's demand that our IT departments let us access our desktop on our tablets and smartphones, too.

No, it's not a security concern to do that. If your IT department says it is, then I'm afraid they're either newbies or just don't have the security controls in place that they should. Believe me, the technology is there. You can make it secure, and it won't cost an arm and a leg. If President Obama was able to keep his BlackBerry in 2008, you can have your desktop accessible on every device in 2014.

Given that healthcare organizations and physicians are being asked to spend more of their time and money each year on healthcare technology just to remain competitive, health IT professionals like us need to look for innovative ways to help offset the cost of technology.

I may have put some of my IT brethren on the spot here. But on some level they must know that the days where we can tell our users what can and cannot be done with a computer are coming to an end.

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James Deck is the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of MTS Healthcare, a cloud computing company that works exclusively with healthcare organizations across the United States to reduce the cost and complexity of IT. Deck has been an innovator in the information ... View Full Bio
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User Rank: Apprentice
9/20/2014 | 7:59:16 PM
Re: Nice article on PCs in Healthcare IT
Dave, I agree with you. Once the physicians and nursing staff see the value of having their applications and documents available on every device without having to start over every time they login to a new computer, the adoption will be explosive.
User Rank: Apprentice
9/20/2014 | 7:52:13 PM
Re: Apps: the enemy is us
Thank you for your reply. I agree with you that we've come full circle and we now have to worry about how to get the apps we use on all of the devices available to us. If you use only Apple products your apps will appear on every iOS based device but not OS X. However, many apps are now being developed in HTML5 and while not as responsive as native mobile apps, they run on most mobile and HTML5 enabled devices.  All that said, the issue about your app not being available in the Windows Store for example is precisely the issue I'm seeing for desktop applications. Until all applications rely on cloud technology and become available on every platform, our desktop operating systems need to be delivered from the cloud so at least your desktop apps can be accessed on any device.
Stephane Parent
Stephane Parent,
User Rank: Moderator
9/11/2014 | 9:01:31 AM
Apps: the enemy is us
What I don't understand is we had finally moved away from desktop applications to web applications, thus making the computer irrelevant.

We then went full circle where we now have to go to different app stores to install the same functionality on different mobile devices.

What am I supposed to do if I have a Windows phone or a Surface (RT, not Pro) and the app is not available in the Windows store?
User Rank: Apprentice
9/8/2014 | 11:56:42 PM
Nice article on PCs in Healthcare IT
Thanks for the great input on this. I'm in Healthcare IT, and I see the slow adoption of cloud and thin client based technology. I do think we'll eventually get there, as it wasn't too long ago when Physicians were completely averse to doing their charting and orders on a PC. Now it's just part of their day, and they see the benefit to having integrated medical records in place of the old paper charts.


Dave Newman, LearnHealthTech
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