Following the introduction of Windows 8 on Oct. 25, Microsoft has outlined features that can benefit health organizations in the areas of security, productivity and collaboration.
A key benefit is the ability to transfer and share data across devices, from a workstation to a tablet, phone or PC, the company reported.
Devices and applications have been slow to meet the productivity and security requirements of the health care industry, according to Dennis Schmuland, chief health strategy officer for U.S. Health and Life Sciences at Microsoft.
"Windows 8 will enable these professionals as well as teams to be productive and collaborate with each other," Schmuland told eWEEK.
Productivity in health care has been challenged by regulations and a difficulty in working together across devices and health facilities in multiple locations, he said.
With a shortage of physicians and nurses, the health care industry needs better collaborative tools for providers and new ways to manage health risks, according to Schmuland.
"We think Windows 8 is going to radically change the way these interactions occur," he said.
Running Windows 8 on convertible tablet PCs, such as Microsoft Surface or the Panasonic Toughbook, and from vendors, like Fujitsu and Lenovo, could provide the productivity and flexibility that providers need, he suggested.
"We think those device choices will give the health industry that one no-compromise device that these professionals need," said Schmuland.
The tablets enable health professionals to collaborate by voice, instant messaging, secure email or texting. These communication capabilities could eliminate a need to respond to pagers, Schmuland noted.
In addition, an encrypted Windows to Go USB drive for the new OS version will enable care coordinators and home health care workers to travel with a desktop on a stick containing VPN capabilities and secure access to electronic health records.
"In the health industry we're entering an era where success for providers, for plans, is less about what happens in care delivery settings like procedures, encounters and treatments as much as it is about distance care, and you're able to reach out and interact with people where they live and work," said Schmuland.
Windows to Go provides a way for health care workers to carry the info with them between a hospital facility and a patient's home. The USB drives provide the authentication, security and privacy protection of Windows 8, said Schmuland.
"We're seeing more and more life science workers go mobile—almost hyper-mobile," said Schmuland. "These individuals require seamless experiences across these devices."
Using a personal tablet to access a hospital network through a Windows to Go USB device is a way to deal with security concerns the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) phenomenon brings, according to Schmuland.
Workers don't store data on the device, he noted.
"Windows to Go is a solution that gives CIOs the ability to support these BYOD scenarios with less cost and less risk because they can literally hand physicians or their physician staff these encrypted USB sticks, and they're loaded with all the applications and connections and configurations," said Schmuland. "So these physicians, clinical workers and scientists can be as productive as quickly as they can boot up their personal device."
In addition, Windows 8 brings better protection against data breaches as well as viruses and malware posing serious threats to medical equipment.
One feature, called Secure Boot, keeps malware from interfering with a Windows 8 system boot, said Schmuland. "Secure Boot makes sure that the signature of the operating system is loaded first and then the anti-malware is loaded second to ensure that these exploits are not unbeknownst to the user," he said. "Windows 8 offers protection against boot-sector kits and other types of malware that can get into the system during the booting process."
Meanwhile, Windows 8 includes BitLocker, which encrypts hardware and enables companies to manage files and applications that run on the devices.
"If it's a BYOD [environment], corporate IT will be able to enforce encryption on these personal devices," said Schmuland.