So my wife and I got to spend several unplanned days in the hospital this week when our baby decided he didn’t want to wait any longer to enter the world. The awesome news is Spencer Alexander was born healthy, if a bit early at 33 weeks. The really cool news is he was born on February 29, so he’s a leap year baby.
And in a completely logical “I’m a new dad so I can work it into a blog post anyway I want” transition, a less awesome but still pretty cool thing that happened this week was seeing thin clients and Citrix XenApp in use in a real-world situation outside our campus environment.
Each room we’ve been in on the “Labor & Delivery” and “Mother & Baby” wards has a Wyse thin client mounted on the wall, with an LCD monitor and keyboard/mouse attached on separate swinging arms. I’m including a picture of the unit in our room below. The one in our room is a Wyse V10LE running ThinOS that seems to connect to a published desktop. The nurses, doctors, and other staff use this device to check “orders” for the patient, enter information into one or more applications, etc. This unit has a Bluetooth transmitter plugged into it, and it uses it to communicate to a wireless barcode scanner that is docked just behind the monitor on the wall. They use that scanner all the time – especially when dispensing medication. Each individual dose, even a single pill, comes in a barcoded container, as well as the various bags of medicine delivered via IV. Part of me looks at this and sees fairly common off-the-shelf technology, and part of me is impressed with the adoption of it and the implications for improving accuracy and safety for patients – especially new moms.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m sure these devices and XenApp in one of its many previous incarnations have been used in hospitals for a long, long time. This is just the first time I’ve seen it in an up-close and personal way, and definitely the first time I’ve seen it not just with the eyes of an interested geek, but the eyes of a new dad who is also a geek. It may sound corny, but the first night we were in the hospital and i saw a nurse login and launch an app and caught a glimpse of the Citrix launch/login box, the geek/system administrator part of my brain told the nervous new dad part of my brain this was at least one thing about which I didn’t need to worry.
As we’ve discussed and planned our XenDesktop/XenApp project, some common questions I receive from coworkers and colleagues on campus include, “will this Citrix system handle this application? Will we be able to use scanners or headsets with the thin clients? Do you think people can get real work done on these?” I’ve been doing this IT thing long enough to know that the safe answer is usually “maybe” or “it depends.” Having seen them in action each day (and at all hours of the night) in an environment as important as the Maternity Ward (do they still call it that?), I’ll be able to address those concerns with a different perspective once I return to work.