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Say So Long to PCs in Hospitals

Scott Mace, for HealthLeaders Media, September 3, 2013

The personal computer has done a lot of good for clinicians in hospital settings, but its days are numbered. Zero-client terminals are quieter, safer, and cheaper to buy and to maintain.

Look around the modern U.S. hospital, and you'll see fewer and fewer traditional personal computers.

That's a good thing. PCs helped bring technology to the masses and powered electronic medical records in a way that previous computing had barely dented. But that was then, and this is now, and as aged PCs get refreshed, they are being moved out for "zero-client" terminals that IT organizations simply plug in.

Behind the scenes though, is a complex set of technologies that allow users to continue to use the same desktop and apps as before. But things are different:

  • Zero clients have no hard disks, and in fact, usually run only a small kernel of Linux software in flash memory, and thus require almost no updating.
  • With no spinning hard disks, cooling requirements are minimal, so the hardware is longer-lasting and quieter.
  • Virtualization technology, coupled with proximity technology that senses a user's name badge not unlike modern door access systems, allows a user's desktop to follow him or her around a facility while requiring the user to enter a user ID and password only once during a shift.
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5 comments on "Say So Long to PCs in Hospitals"


Tommy (9/11/2013 at 7:56 AM)
The CAPEX savings are a perception not necessarily a reality. OPEX can see savings in FTE man hours but that can be offset by the increased OPEX of the licensing cost to Microsoft each year depending on the number of clients. Licensing cost(especially Microsoft), and the cost of fast storage to offer up the virtual machine are the current deal breakers for most hospitals. I agree that the VDI brings a lot to the table in rapid upgrades of hardware and software, decreased patch time, security, etc. However, even though the edge device is cheaper to buy than a full desktop that savings is negated for the previous reasons of licensing and storage.

Steve Munie (9/6/2013 at 1:10 PM)
The problem with broad statements are the exceptions. Radiology was mentioned but dismissed. Even if a solution could be deployed to deliver 12 MegaPixels or more to the desktop, the performance of the chipset would not match that of a local WorkStation. Don't try to think that there isn't still a computer where the cables plug in. For the most part it is a very trending movement with many positive benefits. A wide deployment of mobile devices (tablets) along with replacement of desktop PCs throughout the hospital floors is a good strategy.

scottmace (9/4/2013 at 3:03 PM)
No area of the hospital is exempt from this trend.