This week’s technology news – 4th April 2014

Not totally Xpired – Government offers limited reprieve to public sector and NHS
The UK Government has announced it is bailing out the whole of the UK public sector and NHS by signing a deal with Microsoft to extend support and security updates for Windows XP.  The deal is set to cost taxpayers an estimated £5.5m but will only cover critical and security updates for one year.  As the flag went up on this seven years ago it should reasonably have been dealt with by now by those healthcare IT directors left on catchup.  The support which was due to finish on 8 April 2014 is estimated by UK IT healthcare publishers EHI Intelligence to affect approximately 85% of the 800,000 PCs in the NHS.  The outdated XP operating system, first released in 2001 has been a cause of serious concern to the health service for a long time, as budgetary constraints and an alarming lack of urgency has stifled many migration plans still waiting to happen.  Trusts with more than 250 Windows XP users will need a premier support agreement with Microsoft. The Government is insisting that public sector organisations have a robust migration plan to move off XP, Office 2003, and Exchange 2003 within the year. Trusts that did migrate off XP ahead of 8 April have indicated that it is a long and complex job (sometimes up to two years), demanding significant investment, staff training, and measures to quarantine applications that cannot be put onto new platforms.   But good solutions are out there and CIOs need to step up their strategy, funding arrangements and get on with their plans in a wholesome not fractionalised approach, if they are to avoid a repeated cliff hanger crisis this time next year.

Facebook your GP
The Netherlands has demonstrated it is leading the way in using social media as a significant and positive telehealth tool.  ParkinsonsNet, introduced in 2004, now has 66 regional networks linking 3,000 healthcare professionals from 15 different disciplines linking to patients with Parkinson’s all over The Netherlands.   Radboud University Medical Centre’s report suggests it is empowering patients and lowering healthcare costs (estimated at E20 million).  The interest to NHS bosses is the chance it could be extended to diabetes sufferers, those with heart disease or breathing problems.  Whilst not aimed at removing F2F time with a GP, there is a real possibility that this could greatly enhance community accessibility into the NHS and have a major impact on budget savings to its overstretched purse.  A similar scheme has already been set up in the UK for mental health patients and professionals – and Scotland already has a dedicated Telehealth and Telecare system being piloted and due to go countrywide by 2020.  As noted by NHS England Director for Long-term Conditions, Dr Martin McShane, the facebook style technology is exciting, but the need to ensure the right governances are in place to maintain security, integrity and trust, are paramount to serve this delivery solution successfully.

the NHS Care.data progress report
NHS’s Care.data project to store all GP data in a central database housed by the Health and Social Care Information Center (HSCIC) has ended up in hot water after a series of messy incidents. First, NHS delayed Care.data for 6 months due to patients being given insufficient and confusing information on opting out. Then, PA Consulting uploaded 27 DVDs of Hospital Ep (HES) data from HSCIC to Google’s cloud to assist in analysing the data using Google BigQuery, resulting in an official complaint to the ICO for the handling of the data. This has all resulted in Google pulling out of a speculated ‘groundbreaking’ deal to include NHS data in search results. All in all this has been a terrible start not only for the NHS, but users trust in how their private medical data is stored and used by Care.data.

Windows is going free for Tablets and Phones
Microsoft hosted its yearly Build event this week. Traditionally focused at developers Build has recently been a source of what may be coming out next from Microsoft. Alongside big software updates for Windows 8 and Windows Phone, what may have surprised the audience most was Microsoft’s announcement of cutting Windows’ fees entirely for devices with screens smaller than 9”. This is a huge change in Microsoft’s strategy, now OEM can build a tablet or smart phone, running Windows without having to pay the traditional licencing fees. This should not only cut the prices of small Windows running hardware across the board, but also get Windows running tablet pricing closer to Android and increase the adoption of Windows on phones and tablets. Android is now not the only free mobile OS around.

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