BYO iPads not the best medicine for St Vincent's Hospital

BYO iPads not the best medicine for St Vincent's Hospital

Summary: St Vincent's Hospital, Melbourne, is dipping its toes in BYOD, but conflicts with Microsoft and Apple compatibility will make it tough.


As St Vincent's Hospital in Melbourne completes a major overhaul of its virtual desktop infrastructure, the hospital's IT division has said it is difficult to get many of its applications to work on tablets and smartphones.

St Vincent's Hospital, Melbourne
(Image: Josh Taylor/ZDNet)

St Vincent's Hospital in Melbourne has three sites, with 5,000 staff members and 800 beds. In addition to emergency care, the hospital also has an aged care facility, a hospice, and a number of satellite clinics for community care.

The hospital's IT division is set to link up and become part of a national IT group with other St Vincent's hospitals down the track, but the Melbourne hospital still has local governance under the direction of recently appointed CIO Simon Richardson.

Like many other organisations, St Vincent's Hospital, Melbourne, has been considering rolling out a bring-your-own-devices (BYOD) model, including tablets and smartphones, but according to Paul Gladwell, St Vincent's IT strategy manager, it's difficult to get all the applications working on iPads.

"We're just dipping our toes into BYO devices and tablets and iPhones and things like that. We have that challenge of having a mostly Microsoft shop and trying to get access by mostly Apple devices, and it is rendering that is the challenge and how it looks," he said.

"You can get on to what you want to do via a secure network, but it is actually how it looks when you do it. If [staff members are] wanting to browse, it's not too bad via the iPads, but trying to do any form of clinical data entry is where the challenge [lies]," he said.

Part of the reason for this, he said, is that it's not just one system that staff needs to access; there are about 30 or 40 different applications.

Computer on Wheels
(Image: Josh Taylor/ZDNet)

The organisation has 95 percent completed an upgrade of its 600 desktops and computers on wheels (COWs) stationed around the hospital that are used by medical staff to access patient information. The hospital uses Cisco's unified computing system for the virtualised desktops, with the use of Microsoft Remote Desktop Services. The desktops are running Windows 7.

Gladwell said the new Quick Connect system allows staff members to tap on to their virtualised desktop anywhere in the hospital, and load it up to where that staff member left it within two to three seconds, where before it could take up to five minutes.

"There was such a stigma attached to their slowness. The fact that they were having to log on and log off, there was a hesitancy to use those PCs," he said.

But now he said the Quick Connect system has increased the utilisation of the hospital's IT infrastructure, with more staff willing to use the desktops in different parts of the hospital. But he said that the IT division first had to get staff to buy in to the switchover, and trade in their old ID cards for the new near-field communication (NFC) cards.

"We had to convince everybody that they needed to change their old swipe card, which was just a metallic strip card, to a new proximity-based card," he said. "So there was basically a random draw for an iPad.

"[We saw] pretty quick take-up."


E-Health system lacks compatibility


Just over two years ago, the hospital went to market and began implementing a new document-collection system that would scan in patient documents from paper as they were written up. Since going live 14 months ago, the hospital has collected 2.2 million documents, 90,000 progress notes, 29,000 ICU documents, and over 200 emergency department notes.

But despite the investment in e-health, the hospital has gone out to tender for another clinical system that will be compatible with the federal government's close to AU$1 billion personally controlled e-health record (PCEHR) system.

"That clinical system will be doing the integration. We decided not to develop in any other periphery systems at the moment," Richardson said.

The plan will be for the document system to sit alongside the clinical system that is compatible with the national e-health record system.

"We are actually creating electronic data now, but that will be superseded by our clinical platform," Richardson said.

Richardson later clarified to ZDNet that the electronic data will be compatible with the PCEHR platform.

Josh Taylor travelled to Melbourne as a guest of Cisco.

Topics: BYOD and the Consumerization of IT, Cisco, Health, Virtualization


Armed with a degree in Computer Science and a Masters in Journalism, Josh keeps a close eye on the telecommunications industry, the National Broadband Network, and all the goings on in government IT.

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  • Yep

    I have been saying all along that BYOD Device would never be a good fit where Patient Privacy Concerns are Present.
  • BYOD in healthcare is a VIOLATION of HIPPA

    BYOD should NEVER be allowed in a health care environment no matter how much the employee wines about it.

    It is a direct violation of HIPAA without a single real benefit to anybody.
    • HIPAA is American

      Although I suspect we have something similar this article is about an Aussie Hospital.
  • Something has to be better and more intuitive if not at least useable

    I don't know about elsewhere, but the electronic medical record used in NSW is bloody painful, slow, and disjointed. While I'm not sure that a BYOD is appropriate when dealing with other peoples personal files, anything that improves on what we have had inflicted on us would likely be an improvement. An iPad or other device that allows data entry to a central database with realtime updating and access of client info at the bed side would be ideal, you would / should think. Shame we are so far way from that model being at the bedside today. Such a huge investment in software and infrastructure for such a marginally usable system (for clinical staff if not statisticians and finance depts).
  • iPad is a toy, not suited for workplace

    There is something called Surface or Windows 8 tablets and Employers should encourage or educate employees to bring devices that is suited for work and toys like ipad or android tablets.

    It took decades for Microsoft and other enterprise players to build software that matters for enterprise. Silly android tablets and iPads has no place in Enterprise.
  • Prepare the Apps

    Preparing the Apps is the first critical process of migrating to or using any mobile platform. It seems the hospital is mired in old technology that can't be shifted any time soon because of its reliance on external relationships, requirements and vendors. Until their base production systems move they will be stuck on the older systems without the capability to move to a mobile infrastructure.
    I dont believe that buying a whole heap of Surfaces will suit their requirements as the adoption of the Surface is WOEFUL and this would further attach their star to the dying M$ platform. I also dont believe that telling users that they can't do things that every other organisation is doing is a correct course of action, if users have any choice they will migrate to other hospitals or states where their user satisfaction is highest and there is a chronic shortage of medical staff between sates in Australia.
    The hospital needs to get the committees that govern their applications to start walking those application towards a platform independent mobile future....this has to be built into the applications may take years, sorry guys this depends on $, commitment, and common standards.... and for GO SAKE don't use virtualised versions of M$ products that just feeds the beast. Avoid them if you can. If you don't make this change there is a whole generation of employees at University now who are using mobile devices most based on IOS, who won't want to come and work at your hospital because you use old clunky technology that isn't the platform they are used to, and isn't what they want to use. Your systems are the face of your organisational nervous system, don't make people think that your hospital is outdated just because your systems are and try and have some forward thinking and planning in your systems lifecycle and use those common standards.
    • iOS

      @TASPOLKILLER if you say don't use MS products and then mention iOS - you are braindead! Windows is a real OS and is very capable and reliable. iOS is the most restrictive crap I've ever used and that's precisely why I upgraded to Android phones from iPhone.

      Windows 8's slow adoption is due to Microsoft not providing tuition early on. Most people making videos on YouTube are clueless and are making it look clumsy and bad. It's the fastest and quickest to navigate Windows there has ever been if you actually know how to use it "properly".
      • Brain Dead

        That's quite an offensive statement MelbourneTweetr. Are you saying that the 400 million users that choose to use IOS around the world are brain dead? Hopefully not, and if you believe that IOS is restrictive then you have never used IOS. All I can say is, if you think that IOS has issues all you need to do is follow the malware. Windows is finished buddy, it will probably stagger on for a few years yet, but will die like the aged dinosaur it has become. Ultimately I will let the market provide the answer. See you here in ten years time. I will leave you with this one comment. 98% of all malware is made for Android devices, hope your bank account is safe......

    If you set up a computer which is connected to an enterprises local area network in say a server room, and remotely access its desktop (ideally using a VPN), then you can efficiently access anything on that network because you only need the bandwidth to transfer keystrokes and mouse (or equivalent) movements or even gestures going in and screen & audio updates coming out. Whereas if you directly connect to a database directly then the traffic back and forth can grind everything to a halt. Microsoft Access was notoriously slow when updates had to travel over a WAN but using this approach, it responded seamlessly! So, try using the tablet browser leveraging a secure remote access application and see how easily you can get connectivity.

    I was going to leave just the single comment 'ROTFLMAO' and then I realised that you were not joking?

    Saying that MS' Windows is a dying platform is just so far off the mark. Take a look at the latest results from NetMarketShare that show Desktop OSs in order of preference and you'll find that they are Windows7, Windows XP,Windows Vista, Windows 8 and then the MAC OSs. Yes Windows 8 is more popular than the most popular Mac OS, OS X 10.8.

    You need to sit down and maybe have a cup of tea, calm down and then accept the fact that your whole rave was really just your dreams said out loud. MS is not my favourite company either but they wil definitely be here, and in charge of the desktop and enterprise for years to come and, as a result, simple logic says that BYOD will probably always be easier to implement and work best with Windows 8 Pro tablets.

    There is simply no argument.
    Gary O'Connor
    • IOS

      See you here in 10 years much you willing to bet ?
  • Hello... its called "Surface PRO"

    Seriously? They must have some cutting edge IT Department who are living under a rock and not aware of what is in the market.

    Everyone has bagged Microsoft for the Surface, but its aiblity to easily interface with business proprietry systems running in Windows Desktop on a phone or tablet will prove to be the turning point.

    I have seen a number of companies try to use iPads, and beyond email they are pretty much door stops without custom built software.