Hospitals Are Chained down by Technology, Rather Than Empowered by It
When it comes to technology, I hate waiting. Fortunately, our expectations have evolved with the technology along with our impatience. 15 years ago, I could sit at the computer patiently waiting for AOL to dial me up to the wonderful world wide web. Today, if my phone lags a split second between switching screens it throws off the timing for my whole day. While I may be exaggerating (a bit), we have come to a point with our technology where we are talking about millisecond delays- in contrast to the minutes we experienced just over a decade ago. That's why it is so frustrating that our massive billion dollar hospitals cannot keep up with the latest internet browsers.
Anyone who has worked in a hospital will tell you how far behind these facilities are when it comes to computers. Yes, we finally have flat screens. Yes, we are no longer have the mouse-less DOS system. But no… for the life of the hospital, we cannot run on updated internet browsers. This may seem like a very minor thing to be complaining about, but there are times when you just want to quickly look something up but can’t because most hospitals run on a 2+-year-old version of Internet Explorer. Let’s break that down: First, it is Internet Explorer. As of last month, only 12.1% of the world is using IE (I’d argue that most of those are hospital users too). Second of all, hospitals NEVER seem to be running updated versions of IE. Despite IE’s advertising blitz a year ago touting its browser as blazing fast with a toolbar full of features, it is Google’s stripped-down browser Chrome that takes the cake with 53.2% of users. For good reason too; it is faster, has fewer bugs, and crashes less often.
So why is it that a hospital (you know, that big building that dedicates itself to sterile procedures and a viral/bacterial free environment) populates its computers with a bug-ridden browser? There has been some speculation that most hospitals contract out IT work to Microsoft-based companies leading to an IE-only environment. Then there is the fact that hospitals are just big bureaucratic institutions that are slow to make changes. That, and keeping current on ever-updating browser market is just a low priority.
Whatever the reasons are, millions of hospital employees around the country must feel my pain. Trying to look up medication interactions, drug information, or logging into your work email immediately opens up the dreaded, seemingly archaic Internet Explorer. Hospitals are a place that analyzes every second of a nurse’s time with a patient. Literally, if cleaning one type of port takes 10 seconds and the other port takes 12 seconds, they’ll go with the former to save money: (2 seconds) x (average amount of ports cleaned per shift) x (# of nurse shifts per year) x (average $ per second of nurse’s time). Those are an important 2 seconds! The three minutes you wait to study a med while your old browser opens? Meh, negligible.