Author Archives: Pete Knight

“The Dr.’s Tablet Will See You Now”

“The Dr.’s Tablet Will See You Now”

Health care is as much about Information Management as it is about patient diagnostics. Whenever a patient interacts with a health care professional, there is a record made of the encounter.

This benefits the patient, because his course of treatment is tracked and monitored, helping to ensure that no steps are missed or forgotten. The same benefit reaches to the Health Care professional as well, enabling them to more efficiently do their job and treat more patients.

Electronic computers have become more than labor saving devices, they are an indispensable tool of everyday life which have practically replaced the work that has traditionally been done using paper and pencil. In many ways the tablet computer is latest step in the evolution of portable computing. On the surface they would appear to be a natural fit for medical professionals.

Doctors, COWs, and Tablets

Not everything is quite as it appears, however. Tablet computing has not been as universally accepted in the hospital environment as would be expected. Dr.s can and do make use of computers to record their notes of patient examinations, for example. Over the last decade or so the most common interface has been with “computers on wheels” or COWs, or some sort of laptop application.

COWs and laptops are subject to the obvious limitations of full sized (or nearly full sized) Windows based computers; they are somewhat slow in addition to their physical size. However, they are thought to be very secure. In fact, compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is based on full sized computers.

Portability And Accountability

HIPAA is primarily designed to protect patient confidentiality and privacy. Medical facilities which break privacy protocols can find themselves subject to fines. Until recently, the most popular of the tablet computers, the Apple iPad, was considered to not be HIPAA compliant.

Medical IT professionals site the statistic that 40% of all HIPAA Privacy breaches are the result of mobile device usage. However, closer examination reveals that the greatest portion of these breaches are from unencrypted lost or stolen laptops.

As it turns out, thanks to native security features of the iPad, the tablet is more than HIPAA compliant, and Android based tablets have the potential to be even more secure in the medical environment.

As Electronic Health Record Systems (EHRS) come on line, less and less patient data is actually stored locally. In many cases, patient data is being handled by a Cloud based system, usually incorporating a Software as a Service (SaaS) application handling not only record management, but security as well.

By Pete Knight

Health Care Moving To The Cloud

Health Care Moving To The Cloud

Modern Health Care is an exercise in information management as much as it is patient care.

We can see this with a visit to the Administrative section of any modern hospital. The first thing we will see is a huge bank of filing cabinets containing patient records. Ideally, each folder will represent an individual patient, and each treatment and interaction between the patient, his doctor, and the hospital staff will be recorded in the folder.

As established as the paper folder system is, it is almost laughably vulnerable to inefficiency and mistakes.

Tentative Moves To Cloud Records

The medical establishment has made some efforts toward digitizing its record keeping, and Cloud based applications would seem like a natural fit. Until recently, however, the move to a Medical Cloud has been hampered by concerns of security and patient privacy. Recent trends seem to indicate that the efficiency of Cloud Based record keeping services are becoming a more attractive use of dwindling resources.

Indeed, the market research firm, Markets and Markets, predicts the Cloud Computing Market for health care related service to grow $5.4 Billion by 2017. The transition to Cloud-based health care will not take place overnight, but as it progresses the industry is sure to see incredible benefits, not just in record keeping, but SaaS applications.

Streamlined Consults

One of the most exciting patient care applications will be in consultation between physicians. In the current model, the patient will visit his primary care physician for his condition. The PCP may order a battery of tests, and record the results in the patient’s record. If further consultation with a specialist physician is needed, more tests will be ordered, often repetition of those already conducted.

Repetitive testing protocols are inevitable due to the time it takes for the patient’s case to make it to the attention of the specialist. If those results are available to the consulting physician as efficiently as business is able to access customer service data, the diagnostic and treatment process will benefit, easing patient suffering.

The Medical industry has been slow to move to the Cloud, in part due to security and privacy concerns. The biggest inertial factor seems to be that Medical IT personnel are simply not familiar with Cloud procedures and benefits. As exposure increases, Medical IT is finding that the Cloud provides not only greater and more efficient tools, but increased security.

By Peter Knight

Death, Taxes, And The Cloud

Death, Taxes, And The Cloud

There are a few inevitabilities left in the universe. They are not always pleasant, but they are a fact of life, and although we may be able to point to exceptions, the exceptions serve to solidify the truth of the inevitability.

The most important seem to be death and taxes, and because this is a Technology related information site, we will add Moore’s Law; basically that computing power will double every two years.

When computers were completely physical, the government could tax them as they would a a piece of stereo equipment or appliance. You would go to the store, purchase your hardware or software, and get charged a sales tax for the purchase. You had your stuff, the retailer made a profit, and the government got a cut. Everyone was relatively happy.

Difficulties in Taxing the ‘Net

The rise of Amazon was a preview to the difficulties that the tax system would have with the interstate and international nature of the Internet. Sales Tax models break down with Amazon; if an item is purchased on line, and it is shipped from another state, it is generally exempt from sales tax. What happens if the item is shipped from a facility in the same state as the purchaser? Because shipping charges are negligible, it is worth the extra effort for the purchaser to order over interstate lines to avoid the tax.

Idaho Problems

There are a number of schemes in place and proposed for states to get their “cut” of the cloud computing pie. In October, the Idaho State Tax Commission concluded that Cloud Services are selling software, and that according to state law, software is a taxable property, no matter how the software is delivered. This has prompted Idaho high-tech firms to actively consider moving their servers to Oregon (which has no sales tax, a considerable savings in operating costs).

The Idaho Statesman reports that legislation will soon be introduced that recognizes that cloud computing is a service, in other words, there are no tangible goods exchanged which will be subject to taxation.

(*Update: Please see…)

Vermont’s Solution

In Vermont, Governor Peter Shumlin has proposed simply exempting cloud services for business from sales taxes. Last year the state reimbursed businesses $2million for taxes already collected. The Governor has proposed adding Cloud services to Vermont’s 49 existing sales tax exemptions. However, there is concern from the legislature over the prudence of eliminating any potential State income during these times of tight revenues.

By Pete Knight

The Cloud Is Raining Smart Phones

The Cloud Is Raining Smart Phones

I resisted getting my first cell phone for as long as I could, but finally broke down and got one for use while driving- at the time I was living and working in the Seattle area and my family was a six hour drive away in Eastern Oregon. When you are pulling that kind of mileage two or three times a month, you learn that pulling over to find a phone booth is a time killing inconvenience.

Beyond Land Line Replacement

Still, even though my provider was happy to upgrade my phone every couple years, there was no reason to look for anything very fancy. After all, it was just a phone. It was for talking to people with. Oh, I learned to send texts (but not fast enough that my daughter would ever mistake me for somebody cool), but the important function of the mobile phone was its simplest- to call and receive calls when I was away from my land line.

Until the smart phones hit the market. Smart phones are so much more than just devices to talk to one another, smart phones are a direct tap into the Internet. The smart phone is not quite a perfect tool for interfacing with the ‘net, but the concept is improving on a daily basis.

Blurring The Line Between “Real” Computers

For the foreseeable future, the desktop or laptop screen will remain the preferred tool for going on the Internet, but the scales are rapidly turning. There are places where ‘net connectivity using mobile devices is already more common than using “real” computers.

The most significant differences between a “real” computer and a mobile device is the amount of available memory and the size of the interface. These differences are disappearing so rapidly that they are approaching insignificance.

One solution to the storage question is the use of increasingly huge micro-SD cards, indeed this may be the best solution for onboard storage of data dense media. Increasingly, smart phone users are turning to the Cloud for storage and software solutions.

For Ubuntu, Smart Phones are Real Computers

Some developers are answering the difference between between smart phones and “real” computers but embracing the concept that smart phones are real computers. Canonical, the company behind the Linux based Ubuntu operating system envisions a time when workers will not just plug their smart phones into their work computers, the smart phone will essentially power the full sized work computer.

Having a smart phone powering a full sized computer seems a little far-fetched at first. When you consider how much time the typical smart phone user actually spends communicating compared to “other stuff” it begins to make more sense. This is even before counting the time spent flinging cartoon birds through the air at evil pigs.

By Peter Knight

Cloud Computing And Thin Clients

Cloud Computing and Thin Clients

When I began looking at thin client applications, I was pretty darned sure that the weight loss industry had come up with yet another way to separate overweight people from their money.

Introducing Thin Technology

Thin clients have been around for as long as there have been computers tied together in networks. The concept is pretty simple; individual users do not need full access to a computer to do their work, so rather than placing a fully functional computer on each desk, a thin client machine provides just the functionality needed to accomplish the necessary tasks.

Thin client systems are useful in some business and institutional settings. They have the advantage of keeping the major computing functions, processing and storage, in a safe, central location. There is also potential savings in software licensing, the software is licensed to the central computer but can be accessed from any of the thin client remote terminals.

From Thin Machines to Clouds

These benefits sound very similar to the claims made by cloud computing services, especially software as a service type applications. Although they are similar in many respects, there are some very important differences between thin client technology and cloud computing.

The most important difference is where the data and programming information are stored. As previously described, the data for the thin client is held on the institution’s central computer. Although it is accessible from any of the remote thin client terminals, it is relatively safe on the central machine where only a few technicians will have physical access.

Cloud Versatility

Cloud data is stored in “the cloud”, of course. The actual physical location of the cloud could be any of several large data centers around the world. The actual machinery is likely to be much simpler and more robust than an institution’s central server, and even more secure thanks to modern encryption.

The biggest attraction of the thin client model is that individual users can do their work on relatively simple, inexpensive equipment. However, all the thin client interface can do is work connected with the central computer. Cloud services can be accessed on any device that has a connection to the Internet, whether it is a laptop, desktop, netbook, tablet, or even a smartphone! When the cloud session is over, the interfacing equipment can be used for other computing tasks. Some cloud applications can even be used without the user being connected to the Internet.

By Peter Knight

Information Collection: Business Builds Big Data

Information Collection: Business Builds Big Data

In the beginning there was the electronic computer. It was a tool for defending freedom, useful to use in breaking enemy communications codes and crunching equations for the Manhattan Project. Eventually it became the plaything of hobbyists and garage experimenters. In their garages, they eventually cobbled together machines that were useful and practical for real people.

These earliest personal computers were essentially toys until the first “killer apps” were created. These included the earliest forms of computer spreadsheet. A spreadsheet seems a simple thing, and it is for just about any computer. With this simple addition computers became as important to business as they were too scientists and hobbyists, if not more so.

Business Is Information

All business is in the business of collecting information. Information about your customer base is needed to bring them the products they want. Information about your supply chain helps to predict what products you will have to sell. Information about your competitors tells you where and how you need to innovate. It all depends on finding, storing, and interpreting information.

While business was happily expanding and filling their spreadsheets, the hobbyists and scientists were teaching their computers to talk to one another, eventually creating the Internet. Suddenly, we were no longer limited by the information contained in our own computer, we had access to information from around the world.

The Internet is a terrific place to store and share information, but the nature of business information is such that it is not always desirable to share your information with those outside your enterprise. When the Internet learned to store information, and keep it private and secure, it became the Cloud.

Welcome To The Cloud

As business moves its information into the Cloud, the traditional business applications are no longer able to handle the increased load of data. This is the text-book definition of Big Data. One of earliest super-computers outside of Government or Academia was built to handle AT&T’s billing system. Today, Wal-Mart stores handle 1 million transactions every hour, approximately 2.5 petabytes of information.

Big Data is becoming important for business of all sizes. The smallest of local businesses are no longer strictly local. Thanks to the Internet they can easily market to a world-wide client base.

Big Data and business relationships reach beyond the Internet. If the International marketplace was just for the exchange of information and money, the ‘net may be a sufficient tool, but physical goods are exchanged as well. The sprocket manufactured in your home town getting shipped and installed on a machine in Malaysia is a miracle of shipping. When it happens hundreds of thousands of times a day, it involves Big Data.

By Peter Knight

Webinar: How Cloud, Mobility and Analytics are Driving New Approaches to APM

As computing becomes more and more pervasive with the advent of social business, cloud, mobility and big data/analytics – every end-user interaction counts!  Hear Mary share relevant market research data as well and how to keep enterprise IT focused on what matters with this new complexity faced by IT operations.

Joining Mary is OpTier’s Vice President of Corporate Marketing, Linh Ho who will provide some insight into APM best practices as seen from the customers’ perspectives.

What Size Is The Box We Carry Big Data In?

What Size Is The Box We Carry Big Data In?

In the world of Off Road Driving we can tell how a driver achieves his goal by looking at the size of his vehicle. A rig based on the military HMMV (Hummer) or a Ford F-350 pick-up will be huge, and will carry its driver over the course, no matter the obstacles, using sheer power. If an old flat-fender jeep is the base vehicle it will be much smaller and lighter, what it lacks in raw horse power and speed it makes up in finesse and nimbleness.

Many still consider IBM’s model 5150 from 1981 to be the architectural standard for all desktop computers. Like the TARDIS space ship on BBC’s Dr. Who, “IBM Compatible” desktops have gotten “Bigger on the Inside” while remaining more or less same sized box.

The Big and The Small

This is simply an expression Moore’s Law that computer capabilities essentially double every two years. Moore’s Law was really brought home when I saw a picture comparing an old Kaypro II computer to the latest Samsung smartphone handset. The Kaypro weighed 100 times as much as the cell phone, and occupied 500 times the space. The 80’s computer had a screen that was not much bigger than the phone. With its quad core processor and expandable memory, the phone has competitive spec with a modern laptop.

The computer industry shifting focus from the PC scale computer to large, Internet based computing. This has given rise to the Warehouse Sized Computer (WSC). The modern Internet is based on the connectivity of servers around the world. The enormous amount of data that this entails has led to the growth of huge, climate controlled server farms or Enterprise Data Centers.

One Data Center To Rule Them All…

The accepted model for an EDC is that the storage space is leased to individual companies and clients, such as Web-hosting services, who further market their space to website owners and cloud-computing clients. With the growth of Big Data it is conceivable that an individual company could find itself in need of an entire data center to store and process their information.

This is somewhat reminiscent of the old science fiction stories about the scientist who built a huge computer to answer the meaning of life, and the result was the computer designing an even bigger computer. As individuals, it is hard to comprehend the need for that much computing power, but it is easy to see how quickly our own collection of videos, eBooks, music and photos can clog the hard drive on our personal computers.

By Peter Knight

CloudTweaks Comics
Why Hybrid Cloud Delivers Better Business Agility

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Cloud Computing – The Game Changer

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