Macquarie University Hospital shuns mobility

iPad's loss is a thin-client's win

Like many chief information officers (CIOs), Geoff Harders of Macquarie University Hospital (MUH) has tried the Apple iPad and sees its place in specialised sectors like healthcare. But unlike other CIOs, he has shunned the device.

"They're good for reference guides and patient lists," Harders told Computerworld Australia.

However, Harders does not find the iPad useful for either his own personal or professional use. He went as far to voice his qualms about the device on a colleague's blog at university proper.

The inability to print was one of Harders' main concerns that he said makes the device unfit for use in Macquarie University Hospital. Without that basic function, many MUH-accredited doctors who own practices would be incapable of taking valuable patient information with them, Harders said.

Mobility was not off the agenda in the implementation of the hospital's complex IT infrastructure. Rugged, purpose-built tablets which are used in several hospitals around Australia were trialled at MUH, but ultimately dumped in favour of mobile trolleys and a dual-purpose, hard-wired thin clients installed in each patients' room.

"The nurses were of the view that, with those devices, they still need to carry blood pressure instruments, thermometers," Harders said. "Their pockets would be bulging."

"We're not stopping anyone from using [mobile devices]; we have an ubiquitous wireless network which runs through the entire area as well as the wired network so we've got the capability."

Ultimately Harders said screen space on a device is more of a problem than mobility. "The problem is screen real estate," he said.

The $250 million hospital - which opened to one patient last month - opted for the Siemens HiMed HiPath Cockpit, a thin client that replaced both traditional patient entertainment systems and the clinical charts.

The cockpit system was installed in 150 rooms, allowing access to traditional entertainment as well as relevant patient information through a smartcard authentication on the side of the device.

While Harders is quick to sing the praises of the cockpit system, he noted that the lack of biometric security meant smartcards could be potentially lost or misused.

"It's difficult to leave your thumb at home," Harders said.

Though the cockpit has two USB ports - one occupied by a keyboard - the software does not currently support biometric hardware.

(Check out the technology behind Macquarie University Hospital)

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