Last week on HealthBlog I wrote a piece about computing devices and why I thought the tech industry would soon deliver much better choices for clinical computing. Today, I want to focus a bit more on why I think that is so. I also want to explain why its not just the device that matters, but also the operating system (OS) and the applications it runs that often make the difference between what works and what doesn’t in the hands of medical professionals.
ZDNET columnist Ed Bott provided me with the perfect example for driving home this point in an article he posted today titled, “With Windows 8, just what does "no compromises" mean?” Although his scenario doesn’t come from healthcare, it is one that easily translates to the industry. In the article, Mr. Bott shares the experience of using a Samsung Series 7 Tablet computer running Windows 8 while seated in coach on an intercontinental flight home from Europe. If you’ve ever tried using a laptop to be productive in such cramped quarters you will immediately know why the author was frustrated. However, he found that the Samsung Tablet with its on-screen, touch sensitive keyboard and full array of Office productivity tools exactly fit the bill for the time and place he was using it. Furthermore, when he landed back at home and docked the device, it seamlessly transformed to the full desktop experience he needed to put the finishing touches on his article and publish it. In other words, he found that the Tablet form factor, running Windows 8, in this case truly provided a genuine “no compromises” experience.
As I stated in my blog last week, with the launch of Windows 8 will come a plethora of new devices that have been optimized for the Windows 8 OS experience. However, I fully realize that clinicians will also need software and applications that provide a no compromise experience as well. In that regard, our healthcare industry group at Microsoft has been working closely with both device manufacturers and industry solution providers to steer the future development of electronic medical record solutions and other clinical applications that will take full advantage of the new Windows 8 OS.
One example is a demo application we built called “Rounds”. The intent is to show software developers how they can create applications that take advantage of a new generation of devices running Windows 8 to make clinical solutions work even better for physicians and other clinicians who work in healthcare. It begins with what you’ll soon come to know as the new start screen for Windows.
Clicking on a “tile” called Rounds opens an application that draws context, data and content from a hospital or clinic’s EMR and surrounds it with useful communication, collaboration and data analytic tools from Microsoft and other partners. In this case it doesn’t become the EMR, but rather it adds to and enhances its usability.
It helps facilitate communication by tapping into active directory and providing the “presence” status for all staff. I provides instantaneous messaging, mail, voice and video between team members and others involved in a patient’s care. It helps collect and transfer patient data at the bedside; tracks the location of patients, equipment and staff; and provides way-finding information that might be helpful during clinical rounds.
It does all this using a highly intuitive user interface that responds to input from keyboard, touch, stylus, or even voice. Because it runs on Windows, it also includes all of the productivity tools and connectivity options that mobile information workers have come to expect.
Finally, and also because it runs on Windows 8, it offers the enterprise management tools needed by IT staff to keep the organization’s information safe and secure.
Combine a new generation of really cool and highly diverse devices with a new operating system and applications offering the usability, productivity and management tools both clinicians and IT staff have been longing for, and as my colleague at ZDNET proclaims, you have a no compromises recipe that will make clinical computing so much better than it typically is today.
Bill Crounse, MD Senior Director, Worldwide Health Microsoft