Thick Clients vs. Thin Clients in the Physician Office
Posted Oct 30 2008 3:22pm
This is essentially a question of needed functionality when deciding what hardware is needed in the physician office. If you have had experience in this regard, please add your thoughts and comments at the end of this posting.
According to Wikipedia, "A thin client is a computer (client) in client-server architecture networks which has little or no application logic, so it has to depend primarily on the central server for processing activities." Link: Thin client - Wikipedia. "A thick client (also known as a fat client) is a computer that performs the bulk of any data processing operations itself, and relies on the server it is associated with primarily for data storage. Although the term usually refers to software, it can also apply to a network computer that has relatively strong processing abilities. Link: Client (computing) - Wikipedia.
Computers in the exam room are used primarily to access the Internet, enter and retrieve information from the Electronic Medical Record and print handouts and forms for patient care. This function could be delivered quite effectively by a 'thin client' computer. The advantage of this would be the reduced cost and maintenance (thin clients are cheaper), the ability to simply plug another thin client into the network connection should the unit malfunction and the smaller footprint of the thin client. (The computer casing tends to be much smaller than the average PC and would not take up as much space in the exam room). Perhaps there are other areas in the office that could also be served well by thin clients - e.g. PC in the hallway or in the nursing station.
Despite the potential uses of 'thin clients' , most offices also have zones that require more traditional PC functions and the ability to do a significant amount of data processing. For example, the computer that is used to scan external reports into the EMR. Scanning generally requires a fast PC with local scanning software. Other areas that would likely require more traditional PC function include the physician desk. A physician may have additional clinical decision support tools or software that is needed for additional tasks such as image management or publishing.
My question are these: If you are a physician user of EMR, are you already using a combination of thin clients and thick clients in your practice? If so, do you see performance differences between the different computers? Can you add further insight to the 'thin client' vs. 'thick client' debate? If you are not yet using an EMR, does this premise make sense? Set up an office with a combination of both types of computers allowing for the different functional requirements in different areas with the associated lowering of cost?
To add your thoughts and comments, click on the 'Comments' link.