Say So Long to PCs in Hospitals

Scott Mace, 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.
Scott Mace

Scott Mace is the former senior technology editor for HealthLeaders Media. He is now the senior editor, custom content at H3.Group.


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