This last week-end my elder brother was in town for a wedding in the family. He’s an orthopedic surgeon practicing in northern California – way north near Oregon. During our visit, he told me of some technology changes that have occurred at the hospital where he works. An HMO was brought in to take over hospital administration at the end of last year. One of the first things they did was install thin clients in each of the exam rooms of the hospital. However, they installed thick clients in each of the doctors’ offices. All the thin and thick clients are hard wired with Cat5 cabling - no wireless to these units.
My doctor brother told me that he can’t use the thin clients in the exam rooms because “the digital x-ray images look more like a topographical map than an x-ray and as a result are nearly useless.” What he is forced to do is leave the patient and got to his office and use his thick client in order to view the x-ray image. Most everyone reading this blog has already said aloud “he needs to increase the resolution of the image so he’s not looking at 256 colors as he needs to be seeing the images in millions of colors.” That’s what I mentioned to him. He said that when the contracted technicians were testing the newly installed system, the doctors complained. The hardware technicians quickly blamed the software technicians and vice-verse. The end result was that the problem wasn’t solved before the contractors left. My brother (and other doctors at the hospital) now have a very poor opinion of thin client technologies, and would like to just be rid of it all together. My brother didn’t pay attention to the make of the thin client terminals nor does he have any idea if Citrix, VMware, or what other make of desktop or presentation virtualization software is being used (sounds like I need to get an excuse to go and visit him.) I suspect that some simple modifications from default settings in either the remote display protocol software or the thin client devices is all that’s required – but without knowing the makes and models, that’s nearly impossible to judge.
This story illustrates that a successful thin client installation is not only dependent on good software and hardware, but proper training of the installation technicians and better end-user requirements gathering. The doctors can view and update medical records so long as they are text only, but with the current equipment and configuration, any requirement for high resolution medical images is not being met. Their poor opinion of thin clients may derail any future expansion or new projects in other hospitals. The bottom line is that the technology, configuration, and deployment was not designed, tested, nor piloted to meet the requirements of the environment and this now will leave a bad taste in the customers' mouths.
[Posted by: Richard Jones]