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

St Vincent's Hospital, Melbourne, is dipping its toes in BYOD, but conflicts with Microsoft and Apple compatibility will make it tough.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

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.

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