Would You Like Linux With Your Jello?
It goes without saying that nobody wants to be in the hospital. Bland food, no privacy, and gowns that leave nothing to the imagination — not to mention the procedures being performed — don't exactly make ones visit a relaxing trip to the spa. We all know, however, that Linux can make anything better, and now, whether you're recovering from a lung transplant or liposuction, Linux is there to make your life in the infirmary just a little bit sunnier.
How exactly is Linux livening up the land of the sponge bath? Though we wouldn't be surprised if someone is already working on an application to perform brain surgery, it's not quite that. Part of the pain of being confined to the clinic is the isolation it brings — friends and family are in and out, but one is left with countless hours and nothing but bad soaps and even worse talk shows to fill the void. That's where Linux comes into the picture.
The happy healers at Glendale Adventist Medical Center, in conjunction with Linux luminaries IBM and Novell, as well as the networkers at NoMachine, have found a way to insert Linux into the lives of its patients. Rather than blank walls and bad TV to stare at, patients in the new West Tower at Glendale Adventist have access to the outside world, via Linux-based thin clients available right in the patient's room. The setup utilizes servers from IBM, the networking and compression expertise of NoMachine, and SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop to provide patients with access to the internet, where they can do everything from learning about their condition and treatment to keeping family and friends abreast of their progress via the standard cast of internet characters: Twitter, Facebook, and the omnipresent blogs.
Hospital officials say they chose a thin-client Linux setup because of the performance and cost savings. Not only does the hospital save by using Open Source software, but the sixty-five thin clients are said to save the facility 60% on its electric bill. That, combined with the estimated 98% savings in IT costs — full desktops require a lot of maintenance and a lot of staff to keep up with it — means the hospital can provide the service without patients bearing the burden on the billing end. GAMC plans to roll out more virtual systems in the future, for employee and clinic, as well as patient, use.
Officials say the program has gotten such good feedback from patients that they plan to expand it to the hospital's other locations. In addition to the cost savings, the system is highly regarded for its security benefits. Unlike full desktop systems, which leave all manner of information behind after use, the thin clients provide far fewer opportunities for patient information to fall into the wrong hands. In combination with NoMachine's software, which provides a "seamless remote connection" over any network connection as well as the encryption necessary to protect sensitive data, the Linux systems provide patients "the feel of being on their own personal computer, while reducing power consumption and support costs."
IBM's Director of Linux Strategy, Inna Kuznetsova hit the nail on the head: "With Web access to friends and family, the hospital's virtual Linux desktops are improving its patients' real hospital experience." That, ladies and gentlemen, is Linux at work.
Justin Ryan is a Contributing Editor for Linux Journal.
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