What hospitals need to know about Windows 10

The new OS brings a number of features tailored specifically for healthcare settings and clinicians. Let's take a look.
By Tom Sullivan
08:03 AM
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Windows 10

The arrival of a new Microsoft operating system does not exactly bring the same excitement that it once did.

Indeed, since about the time Windows Vista launched, subsequent operating systems have come – and in the odd case of Windows 9 essentially vanished – without the fanfare of Windows 95, XP or 2000.

The company has at least managed to create enough wattage around Windows 10, however, that some 5 million so-called Windows Insiders installed early versions to test the software in development – and word slipped out this week that the planned flagship Microsoft store on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan will open in the fall.

[See also: IE flaw ushers risky new era for XP use.]

A critical piece of the renewed interest is how Microsoft is breaking new ground with a phased approach to what CEO Satya Nadella dubbed the "One Windows" strategy, beginning July 29 when the OS became available for PCs and tablets.

The aim is to upgrade systems currently running Windows 7 and 8 in the near-term and follow that with Windows 10 Mobile later this year, and devices from Microsoft’s harem of hardware partners are slated to become available before the holiday season. Beyond that, Microsoft intends Windows 10 to serve as the operating system for a range of Internet of Things devices, including its own Surface Hub conference systems and HoloLens holographic glasses, among others.

When that “One Windows” day comes, the sales pitch goes, hospitals will be able to consolidate varying devices onto Windows 10 and the fact that the upgrade is free for systems already running Windows 7, 8.1 or 8.1 Mobile should entice many IT shops to install it; for those still using an older OS, the price tag is $199 for the professional version.

Microsoft, in the meantime, has incorporated some healthcare-centric functionality into Windows 10.

On one of its web pages the company showed the operating system’s capability to “snap together” different applications and, in so doing, enable a clinician to view a patient’s EMR next to a home health app.

A Power BI function can "gather, analyze and visualize quality of care data," while the Power Map feature enables users to combine and compare a hospital's own information with population health statistics. Microsoft also pointed to programs including Office 365, OneNote, SharePoint and Skype that can be used for care management and information sharing.

[See also: Clinical & business intelligence: the right stuff]

Later this year, when Windows 10 Mobile becomes available, it will make syncing apps across smartphones, tablets and PCs easier. Now, that’s not likely to inspire CIOs to rip and replace existing smartphones anytime soon, but the ability to coordinate a Windows-based phone with a Surface tablet will invariably have some appeal to a select crowd.

That’s just a taste and Microsoft said that it will be showing more of Windows 10 health capabilities moving forward.

The new OS also brings many broader functions, such as the return of the old Start menu, the new Edge browser, Cortana virtual assistant, and the usual suspects of upgraded apps for mail. Maps, music, photos, and OneDrive to back them up.

Much like its competitors Apple, IBM, Google and Oracle, Microsoft has been ramping up efforts particular to healthcare lately. Earlier this month, for instance, when it unwrapped the Cortana Analytics Suite, Microsoft also revealed that Dartmouth-Hitchcock is already using the tools in a personalized medicine pilot project.

Whether Windows 10 will enjoy the widespread adoption of XP or languish like Vista remains to be seen. But at this point – and with Microsoft's marketing machine stating that the company is gunning to upgrade 1 billion devices to Windows 10  the former appears more likely than the latter. 

What's your perspective? Just another Microsoft OS or a great reason to upgrade?