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As expected, HIMSS13 is abuzz with new offerings. Mobility, of course, is a central focus, and while devices and apps should garner a good deal of any healthcare CIO’s attention, don’t overlook the fact that Microsoft’s latest upgrade delivers a game-changing approach to the Windows* operating system.

 

Yes, it’s early. Maybe your organization is still running XP, or you’re just getting Windows 7 off the ground. Maybe you always prefer to wait on future versions. But proactive CIOs are looking at Windows 8 now because it enables them to incorporate the BYO phenomenon with all of their legacy software.

 

“From the CIO’s perspective, the challenge is keeping everything in synch at all times,” says Stanley Crane, CTO at Allscripts. “In Windows 8, the same management tools they use today to manage Windows 7 and XP environments translate exactly. There’s no new tool kit to get, the mechanisms are in place, you can keep everyone in synch. That, to me, is a huge plus.”

 

Thanks to backward compatibility, Windows 7-based healthcare organizations that may not have a lot of touch enablement (yet) can still run all of their applications in desktop mode within the Windows 8 environment without making any changes.

 

But in a move to accommodate the newer platforms that are touch-enabled, Windows 8 offers a choice: compute traditionally with a keyboard and mouse, or compute the way our collective consumer experience has been guiding us: with touch. Users can go back and forth seamlessly between both compute models.

 

For CIOs, having this capability means not having to bolt on a consumer BYO approach to their legacy environments. No need to use virtualization software in cases where it doesn’t make sense, simply because it’s the only way to prevent information from sitting on devices. They can compute natively in Windows on a mobile device.

 

“It’s not a forklift upgrade where I have to switch everything to touch; I don’t have to,” adds Mark Blatt, M.D., Worldwide Medical Director at Intel. “I can migrate to touch in a natural manner as makes sense. And I can let the consumer, or enduser, add their own BYO touch to the platform, fully knowing I have all the manageability and security tools that I’ve always had available to me. I’m not compromising anything.”

 

In addition, Windows 8 offers three interesting capabilities over the existing touch mobile device platforms currently on the market:

 

Live Tile: an environment in which users can communicate bi-directionally with the application that sits below it. It’s a nice innovation worthy of a little effort. For example, in the Live Tile environment, the icon could say, “You have stat lab values.” And after a certain amount of time, it could change from green to yellow to red, or it could buzz; it’s a live, interactive environment that’s pushing information to the tile, rather than telling you to go pull it from the store. Think of the possibilities here. FYI, users can right-click to turn off active tiles and make them static.

 

Picture password: a sign-on capability completely unique to the user, so they don’t have to remember pins or passwords. It frees users from some of the legacy constraints without sacrificing security. A welcome addition in health care settings.

 

Snap mode: a feature that offers the ability to run two different applications at the same time. Not just two different windows, but two applications on the screen at the same time. A physician could, for example, open a neuroanatomy program from the store that shows pictures of the brain and nervous system. On the other half of the screen, she could be running a DICOM viewer in desktop mode that shows an actual CAT scan of the patient’s brain. Having this ability to multi-task and bring up multiple apps in live environments is critical to the way health care providers think and work—and Snap mode allows this flexibility.

 

For functionality and flexibility, healthcare CIOs could do worse than consider a Windows 8 upgrade, given the overall gains. Is it on your organization’s radar yet? Why or why not?

 

As a B2B journalist, John Farrell has covered healthcare IT since 1997 and is Intel’s sponsored correspondent.


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