Hospitals run on information. This includes everything from the medical staff’s schedules to the latest vitals of patients in the critical care ward. So it is imperative information is swiftly and securely transmitted throughout the hospital’s connected devices like medical grade computers. In the past, hospitals would equip such endpoints with a full copy of the operating system (OS) to run it as well as any specialized software like that found in a medical tablet’s RFID reader. This quickly proved to be untenable as such devices were slow, costly to configure, and labor intensive to maintain. Also, they were vulnerable to software attacks as people could load viruses and malware on such PCs. 

In response, hospitals and medical offices switched to a client-server configuration. Basically a spiritual descendent of mainframes and monitors (aka so-called “dumb terminals”), this blog post covers the weakpoints in such configurations, and how a cloud-optimized operating system like IGEL OS is the right solution.

Diverse Hardware Compatibility

Hospitals IT networks encompass a huge array of medical equipment: thin clients, desktop PC workstations, and medical grade PCs to name just a few. Thus it is important that an OS running on them works with such diverse hardware. It will need to have a small software footprint yet powerful enough to interact with any additionally installed software like virtualization machines. The underlying OS needs also to be highly scalable for those times when IT staff face configuring medical devices numbering in the hundreds of thousands. 

And any time you deal with configuring hardware and software together means dealing with device drivers. As the name implies, this is software allowing the OS to communicate with a particular piece of equipment. IT, for this situation, should carefully review licensing terms, making sure device drivers are under a single OS license. Otherwise, separate licenses for each device driver may dramatically raise costs to prohibitive levels.

Ensuring Healthcare Information Security

Keeping patient records safe and secure is not only a matter of sound policy but a requirement by law. Client-server configurations naturally do so by running programs on the server side instead of an endpoint like a medical panel PC. This, combined with the highly secure Linux-based architecture of an operating system, makes the healthcare network less vulnerable to attacks from viruses and malware. Information like the above mentioned records is also handled and protected in a similar fashion as it is stored centrally on the server. 

Security to vital systems and confidential records can also be increased by restricting access to only recognized individuals. Hardware features such as RFID, coupled with single sign-on solutions for healthcare like Imprivata OneSign which prevents multiple sessions using the same login to keep things secure, make sure the user is truly authorized by the hospital. An OS with built-in ready integration for both keeps network management simple and secure.  

Customization to Set the Standard

Finally, management of the healthcare network can be a logistics nightmare if each endpoint looks﹘and even acts﹘different from each other. Virtualization software like Citrix can ensure a standard look and feel, but the network OS needs to be robust enough to rapidly deploy such an image. IGEL OS, as an example, can manage up to 100,000 diverse endpoints from a single console thanks to its Universal Management Console.

Closing Thoughts

The hospital environment offers many challenges, and the last thing anyone wants are issues with the network caused by diverse hardware requirements, need for security, or (lack of) ease-of-use. A properly selected OS—with a small footprint, integrated compatibility, and secure architecture—is optimized to meet those challenges head-on, allowing hospital staff to deliver the best possible patient care. 

If you’d like to learn more about the ways to implement IGEL OS with medical computers and medical tablets in your hospital operations, contact a Cybernet expert today.