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007 - The New Breed of Everyday Users

December 20, 2008
by Joe Bormel
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007 - The New Breed of Everyday Users

The Consumerization of HealthCare IT is Coming Faster and Sooner


This week, I was particularly struck with how commonplace relatively advanced technology use is becoming, including wireless, mobile and virtual desktop technologies.

1) It started with

Daphne Lawrence's blog post on Wireless In Healthcare, where she reviewed the recent HCI Webinar. The issue of community members setting up rogue access points (AP) was referenced. I know several people in different organizations who routinely carry an AP in their laptop/notebook bag and use it. They use it in conference rooms, hotel rooms, and at work in their own offices, etc. [Note to my IT department- I know better and don't do this, and thanks for the great service so that I'm not tempted.]

I'm struck by the increased number of people using it, many of whom are much, much less tech-savvy than in past years.

As I learned in the Webinar, and from various CIOs, detecting rogue APs ranges from trivial to nearly impossible. I was surprised how commonly it's being done, including by people who don't program computers or work for, or with IT. This is consumerization. This holiday season, there are small, 802.11n APs for sale at my local computer store for under $50 (fifty) dollars. Consumerization - high volume, dramatically lowered price, and out-of-the-box ease/simplicity of use.

2) Then, over the last months, I noticed a

rapidly increasing number of folks not only buying iPhones, but establishing Outlook Exchange server connections (and other services) without assistance from IT or their wireless carrier. Some of these folks are non-IT, non-Clinicians, like senior and middle level executives. Some are getting help from their non-IT friends. They enter the URL of their mail server, their username and password, and "it just works."

Initially, the "it just works" is to everyone's surprise. And then, it seems natural and expected. Across the country, these folks are asking their hospitals for wireless access, or, they are simply using the hospitals' guest network. It's no longer the 3 to 5 geeky folks that everyone expects.

3) This last one blew me away.

Multiple-virtualized desktops, maintained by non-IT consumers. I was in several boardroom lunch meetings at several terrific community hospitals this week. My team, largely virtual, was presenting using a LiveMeeting/WebEx-class service. My hosts had an HP laptop connected to their projector and everything seemed to be working quite normally for over an hour.

For some reason, our session terminated and I was the closest person to the laptop to restart it. We were able to get it restarted pretty quickly, ...

after it was explained to me that the HP laptop was merely providing a VNC (virtual network connection, kind of like Citrix) to someone's Dell desktop elsewhere in the hospital. That desktop had three connected displays (all were part of the virtual desktop). On one of those displays was the browser that was connecting to the LiveMeeting session. That Dell had the PC-side client software loaded for LiveMeeting; it was not the HP laptop in front of me. Starting a browser there was pointless (I learned after trying.) The Dell was set up to get through the firewall; the HP was not.

The person who set that all up was not a network engineer or a programmer. One of her roles was clinical analyst. Setting up the VNC seemed natural and direct for her. In the grand scheme of things, we were more than doubly virtual. Our presenter was in Ohio, the application server was in Virginia or California, and the hospitals were a few hours drive from St Louis, MO and Lexington, KY. A simple mouse-move seen at the hospital was routinely originating in Ohio, going east to one server, relayed west to the Dell and relayed again within the hospital to the HP. No engineers involved in this final configuration. And, for the most part, it was so smooth that no one knew what was beyond the technology curtain. As it should be.

My attempts to make the projected session "full screen" was, of course, complicated by the creative use of technology.

These technology feats, wireless connectivity, and mobile devices with virtual access to remote desktops were, in recent years, fairly eclectic vices. Now, they are rapidly becoming commonplace habits.

Daphne's post included her recent wonderment regarding the server virtualization and consolidation. In a follow-up comment, she shares that some companies are routinely using services like Skype video conferencing, as the enlightened in many companies I know do as well.




Hi Joe, that is so right on. The video conferencing angle is posided to grow, I think. I spoke with someone in Europe this week who told me about a hospital system in which all the PCs have cameras and all hospital meetings take place right at the desktop. No booking the conference room! Thing of the time savings, not to mention travel costs for a spead out system...
PS I saw Thunderball 7 times so you know I love Bond, too!

I'm glad you enjoyed it.  The Gyrocopter, aka Little Nellie, came from "You only lived twice."
If you can spare 5 minutes to cleanse your mental palate, you might enjoy the Bond clip of 'Little Nellie' defending her honor, here.

When I was growing up, there was a kit for sale in Popular Science called a Benson GyroCopter.  It was basically Nellie, without the 1) flame thrower, 2) Air-to-Air missles, 3) explosive parachute things, and 4) forward-shooting machine guns.  It was powered by a lawn mover size engine.  The kit required 'tack welding' capability from the 8 year old readers like me.  I learned later in life that there was a high rate of lethal crashes of these things.  It turned out that, if you tried to climb too steeply, or took an unplanned gust of wind, the top rotor blades collided with the rear propeller and destroyed the blades.  Since there is no fixed wing, the GyroCopter immediately crashes to earth.

Your webinar was well worth anyone's time who is interested in understanding the breadth of Wireless applications and the infrastructure to deploy and control it.  It was clear that organizations who understand the future are getting the experience with video conferencing that you described.

And Little Nellie was the best Christmas present you ever got!

There's something about remoting into a machine that's just satisfying in general. It's such a cool feeling. For me, the magic feeling still hasn't died and I've been doing it on and off for ~7 years. It's like the first time you get to use a multi-monitor configuration. You just feel cooler somehow.[/end nerdgasm]