Ontario facility seeks remote access patient records

Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital is testing a software tool that manages applications delivered by Microsoft Windows Terminal Services that could make remote access to patient information more efficient and affordable.


Herbst, the hospital’s systems manager, says Canaveral iQ will retrieve text-based information that doesn’t require a lot of bandwidth, such as Patient Information and Results (PIR) or a Hospital Information Systems (HIS) file. Remote users, such as doctors, can go to a front-end Web site that logs them on to the hospital’s secure network. From there, they can quickly access PIR to check up on a specific patient’s progress.

“”(Doctors) are able to see the location of their patients and which type of tests have been done,”” says Herbst. “”If the patient has just had an X-ray, doctors can remotely retrieve the result of a radiologist’s dictation without waiting for the printed report. The best part is that these things can be done on a real-time basis.””

When remote users log on to the network, they view screen-shots of data rather than open the file in their desktop. All the data actually stays back in the host site, explains Herbst. This requires less bandwidth, enabling the screen-shots to come across quickly.

“”They are also sent in a secure manner because we’re doing this over Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), which is the same protocol that the banks are using to send data,”” says Herbst. “”So we can use the Internet, which virtually everyone has, and it’s affordable. And because it’s through SSL, we don’t have to spend a ton of money on worrying about the security of the data.””

Because screen shots require less bandwidth, hospital computers, as well as the remote PCs of doctors and other hospital staff, do not have to be upgraded as often.

“”Old computers (such as a 486) can support the incoming information,”” says Herbst. “”You can’t go into a doctor’s home and expect to replace an (old) computer with a $7,000 desktop. It’s not feasible”” at a time when hospital IT budgets are continually squeezed.

Canaveral iQ is also less expensive than its competitor, says Gary Walker, the senior project manager at Global DL, the major re-seller of Canaveral iQ in Canada.

While the Citrix system sells for $400 per license, Canaveral iQ sells for $200 per user, including the set-up of a one-month pilot. The U.S.-based makers of Canaveral iQ, New Moon, discarded about 20 per cent of the usual features and bundled the necessary ones into a product that runs on top of Microsoft’s Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP). RDP uses a special form of compression that speeds up the transmission of data.

While Herbst is still testing Canaveral iQ on a relatively small group of willing physicians and clinicians, he is already able to estimate the immediate impact on his bottom line. He says the software is the equivalent of a full-time technician. This means more time is available for IT staff to tend to other urgent matters.

Consequently, the software will pay for itself in about a year, he says. The challenge will be to convince other physicians and clinicians to jump on board.

“”Physicians aren’t quick to jump on technology because of the inherent risk that it actually might slow them down,”” says Herbst. “”So we need to run the technology through willing physicians because others will typically believe their peers that this thing works long before they believe an IT guy.””

For Herbst, the use of Terminal Services is “”a transgression back to the days of UNIX, when the smarts were back in the server room.”” That’s because the use of Terminal Services enables IT staff to centralize their resources.

“”We’ve largely gone full circle. By bringing all the power back into the server room, it reduces the administrative work for the IT department once it’s deployed. We don’t have to worry about the desktop issues anymore. We just have to make it work properly on the server.””

Walker says Canaveral iQ has also piqued the interest of other health-care facilities in Ontario.

Royal Ottawa Healthcare Group has just purchased the software.

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