In large part, healthcare IT is made up of aging desktops, anchored to their desks and connected via Ethernet, if you’re lucky. In some cases, especially in Acute settings, you’re lucky if you even have any useful software on that computer.
The form factor of the desktop machine is a dying one. The power required from these kinds of machines is quickly becoming relegated to power hungry users like coders, and creatives who require the highest end spec for their compiling and processing needs. In large part, the average user of most software can be highly productive with laptops and tablets.
As I look around the office where I work, it’s very rare not to see someone working on a laptop. The cross-over of power and portability arrived a long time ago.
But, even the laptop form factor is beginning to see the downward end of the bell-curve of its popularity. Sadly, laptops just aren’t as portable and flexible as we need for the future.
This idea didn’t entirely click with me until I saw a demonstration of the Microsoft Surface 2 a few years ago. For all of its faults, I think there is something very positive in the form factor.
The Surface was being used in a more traditional laptop configuration: kick-stand out, keyboard attached, on a desk. The Surface could then be picked up and held and used like a tablet. And then – and this is where I got interested – it could be placed into a docking station, with keyboard, mouse, and large monitor all springing to life. All the while, Windows and the software being run were adapting to the different use cases.
And it’s not just the Surface that is pushing the frontier of what the term computer means, but Apple are going into high gear about how iPad Pro can become your go to work device.
The mechanics for these devices are all there, with responsive design being built into lots of frameworks, making it easier than ever to allow your software interface to scale with the format and use case of the devices you’re running on.
There’s no better place than healthcare for this kind of format. Whether you’re moving around wards, consulting rooms, or on the road, all you need is an internet connection and a hybrid device and you can be off to the races.
Imagine walking into work with your device, docking it to do your morning consultation shift. Then, it’s time to do some work in the back office so you take your device to a hot desk, where you either work in a dock, or just plop it down on a desk. Then, it’s time to do home visits, or attend a meeting, your device just comes along with you running in tablet mode.
There’s lots of benefits to tablets. They tend to have longer battery life, are lighter, have growing processing power to handle more professional software, and allow you to work from almost anywhere.
Whilst the devices are becoming ever more ready, clinical software is lagging behind. EMIS Health, TPP, etc are all developing their mobile solutions, but these are very separate to their main applications. These aren’t innovative, or that powerful. Instead, suppliers should be preparing for the hybrid world, where their software adapts to the device they are being used on.
These are surmountable problems, once clever developers are pointed in this direction by suppliers.
Allowing more flexible working within healthcare organisations enables a more flexible delivery of care to patients. It’s not just about clever technology; it’s about innovation in ways of working.