Blade maker counts on healthcare

By Jack Beaudoin
12:00 AM

Senior technologist Ken Knotts admits that as far as vertical markets go, healthcare wasn't at the top of ClearCube's list when the company began marketing its desktop blade technology in 2000.

"We'd always heard that healthcare didn't like to spend money on technology," he says. "We also heard that hospitals didn't necessarily like to be on the cutting edge."

So company officials were definitely surprised when instead of giving the blade concept the cold shoulder, healthcare IT directors embraced it. "They loved it," Knotts says. "We were like, 'What's up with that?' And that's when we heard about HIPAA."

Healthcare IT staff instantly recognized the security built into blade technology. Unlike a conventional desktop PC, the most valuable parts of the computer - the data, the hard drive and the processing power - are centrally located in a secure room, usually within a short walk of the IT department. Connected to a monitor, keyboard and other peripherals in an exam room or patient room via ClearCube's C-Port, the blades mix the ease of use of a conventional Windows-based desktop with the centralized management qualities of a thin client architecture.

Today, healthcare accounts for about a third of ClearCube's revenues, but converts to the technology say it's more than just a one-trick pony that solves HIPAA security issues.

"I can come up with 10 good reasons right off the top of my head," says early adopter Jeff Jones of the Oklahoma Heart Hospital, a 78-bed all-digital facility in Oklahoma City. Among them: blade set-ups take up less space, are quieter than conventional PCs (no noisy fans in patient rooms), are less likely to be stolen, don't pose infection control issues and save IT staff time because they don't have to be dispatched to far-off rooms or facilities.

Blades may also prove cheaper to own over the long run. Although the up-front seat cost of a ClearCube blade is about 1.5 times more that of a desktop machine, IDC analyst David Tapper estimated that a customer with a 100-seat ClearCube implementation could save the equivalent of $35,120 annually in IT time.

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