St. Michael’s Hospital moves to ‘open’ workstations

St. Michael’s Hospital says it will be the first hospital in Canada next week to roll out an open standards-based workstation that will help better organize and secure patient information.

The Toronto-based facility

is implementing Novell Clinical Workstation as a delivery method for its clinical applications that handle patient data. Novell last month announced the product at a health-care conference in Dallas, Texas. Leveraging Novell’s identity management technologies and integration tools, the workstation allows IT staff to quickly and securely deliver applications and information to health-care workers, offers cross-platform support for mainframe, fat/thin clients and Web applications, and helps hospitals meet privacy and security regulations, according to Novell.

One of the main benefits for staff will be single sign-on to applications, said Corinne Arnott, senior Web developer at St. Michael’s. “Now hospital workers don’t have to have multiple passwords to get into applications that they’re going to use,” she said.

St. Michael’s will install Novell Suse Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) 9 on its clinical workstation servers, marking the hospital’s first Linux deployment since it obtained a license for Suse Linux a year ago. While St. Michael’s is still running NetWare 6.5 on its authentication servers, anything new will most likely run on the Suse Linux OS, said Arnott.

“As things come in, we’ll work out and assess whether we’ll use it or not,” said Arnott. For example, St. Michael’s will run ArcIMS, a Web-based GIS application on Suse Linux for use by hospital researchers.

The project also involves the development of a clinical portal using Novell exteNd application integration software to deliver clinical applications. This will give staff the same access to patient information whether they’re at the hospital or at home. St. Michael’s will also start using iChain as part of its remote access strategy.

Though not officially part of Project Gemini, the workstation project and others support it. In 1999, St. Michael’s started looking at how technology could aid clinical research, education, and patient care delivery, which subsequently became the driving force behind Project Gemini. The multi-year plan involves the implementation of integrated clinical software systems that will allow the hospital to use electronic patient records instead of paper charts and clinicians to place orders, input clinical notes and review medical images via the Web. Last July, St. Michael’s completed the first of the five phases in the project, which involved the implementation of Getronics network infrastructure, Siemens Medical Solutions software and technology and services from IBM Canada.

To support these new systems, St. Michael’s has been rebuilding its network, data centre and security infrastructure since Arnott started at the hospital two years ago. Since then, St. Michael’s has rebuilt the hospital network, deployed over 2,000 workstations, built a new data centre and revised its existing one to mirror the new one.

Running the Linux operating system platform across all of St. Michael’s is not yet a reality as much of the hospital’s applications are Windows or client-based.

“We’re kind of tied to (Microsoft),” said Arnott. “We already have (Windows) in the hospital unless we can find a different application. (Health care) wants to move to open source completely, but we recognize it’s going to take a long time to be able to do that.”

Arnott was one of thousands of customers who attended this year’s BrainShare conference in Salt Lake City, which wraps up on Friday. Identity management was one of the main themes of this year’s conference. Earlier this week, Novell announced two platforms — Application Services Foundation (ASF) and Identity Services Foundation (ISF) — to help organizations secure and manage their infrastructure. As part of its foundation, Novell also announced its expanded partnership with JBoss. Under the deal, Novell will contribute some of its exteNd code to JBoss Enterprise Middleware System (JEMS) and resources to help independent hardware and software partners get custom apps to market faster.

Widely disparate resources and devices, fragmented views of applications and identities, diverse distributed audiences and severe security and privacy constraints are key drivers behind identity-driven computing technologies, said David Litwack, senior vice president and general manager of Novell’s identity driven products group, at Monday’s keynote.

“(Organizations) need to build applications that combine fragmented systems,” said Litwack. “They also need to start with business entities or identities of the enterprise, manage them and integrate their attributes to determine their role.”

Arnott is currently working on an identity management policy for staff and Web-based standards as part of a hospital-wide initiative to develop policies that cover all areas of IT. Every staff member from clinicians to nurses to physicians must have a Novell user ID, said Arnott as an example. In order to get that ID, staff must first have a bar code ID, which was implemented after the SARS outbreak in 2003.

St. Michael’s is also looking at possible future deployment of Sun Microsystems Sun Ray systems using Xybernaut wireless thin client access cards, as well as various devices such as wireless tablets and PDAs, and expanding its remote access capabilities to give patients access to their records.

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