At the recent Dell World conference I had the opportunity to try out a slew of new Windows 8 devices. I was struck by how many potential healthcare applications this new platform and the mobile devices it has spawned will be available. Windows 8 could have some significant ramifications for use in healthcare. As Denise Amrich, RN and a healthcare advisor for the U.S. Strategic Perspective Institute in her ZDNet post "Why Windows 8 may be the ideal tablet OS for healthcare" said, "Windows 8, like Windows 7 before it, integrates beautifully with Windows server technologies. Windows 8 adds additional security features and works smoothly with Exchange, SharePoint, Windows 2008 and Windows 2012 Server. Of particular interest to healthcare professionals, Windows 8 also supports Microsoft Lync secured messaging, so IM messages that go between medical professionals can be both instant and rock-solid secure." The ability to seamlessly integrate Windows 8 tablets into the enterprise, and to run legacy Windows based EHRs will allow clinicians to finally have the mobile form factors they have been looking for.
Bill Crounse, MD the Senior Director of Worldwide Health for Microsoft, in a blog post laid out what he sees as the top 3 attributes of Windows 8 that make it a compelling choice for clinicians:
- It keeps health information secure
- It works the way you do
- It facilitates communication, collaboration and productivity without compromise
Microsoft has also demonstrated (see below) a prototype of an application for Windows 8 it is calling "Rounds," which is designed to streamline healthcare professionals workflow in hospitals as they communicate within their care teams. Clinicians can click on a grid of patients, view data from EHRs, and hold a video conference with a specialist. Although it is just a prototype at this point, it nicely showcases the touch screen capabilities of Windows 8 tablets. This app is one example of how Windows 8 can combine the functionality of a full PC within the interface of a tablet.
Another very interesting feature of Windows 8 is Windows To Go. Windows to Go allows Windows 8 Enterprise to boot and run from mass storage devices such as USB flash drives and external hard disk drives. Basically it enables administrators to configure an image of Windows 8 onto a USB stick. Using a personal tablet or other mobile device to access a hospital network through Windows to Go is a good way to deal with some of the security concerns of BYOD and mobile device management.
Microsoft seems to have bet the farm on Windows 8, and so far the bet appears to be a good one. With greater emphasis on security and mobility the new platform looks to be a winner, and unlike Vista will likely be adopted fairly quickly. Previously devices and applications have been slow to meet the productivity and security requirements of the healthcare industry. As these new devices continue to improve in usability and more apps are developed on the Windows 8 platform, I expect to see some pretty broad deployment of both the platform at the enterprise level as well as many of the new mobile devices in the healthcare industry.