Productivity can be a challenge when your office looks like a menagerie. It’s all in a day’s work, however, for the clinical staff at the more than 530 veterinary hospitals of VCA Antech. To boost productivity and enhance doctor-client relationships in an often-chaotic environment—while keeping IT management lean and effective—the company embarked on a proof of concept of a custom clinical solution running on Windows 7 slates. VCA Antech anticipates that the combination of the Windows 7 operating system and a tablet PC will give doctors the convenience of a mobile, large-screen device; the flexibility to use finger flicks and gestures; handwriting; a virtual keyboard; a wireless physical keyboard; and the familiarity of the Windows operating system. IT staff will gain the simplicity and cost-effectiveness of managing Windows 7 slates with the same network tools they already use.Situation
If your doctor’s office can seem chaotic at times, listen to Juliet Bailey.
“When patients are scared or unwilling to come into the hospital, they’re not shy about letting us know it,” she says. “They can be uncooperative or aggressive with their doctors. They can hide under chairs. Let some patients get too close to each other and they’ll start snarling and barking.”
||When we started thinking about the possibility of extending our systems beyond the desktop, Windows 7 slate was the logical choice to consider. It’s Windows, and we know Windows.
Senior Director of Project Management, VCA Antech
Snarling and barking? “Quite possibly,” says Bailey, Senior Director of Project Management at VCA Antech, which operates more than 530 veterinary hospitals in 41 states throughout the United States and in Canada, provides diagnostic services to another 14,000 independent veterinary hospitals, and markets and distributes premium and therapeutic pet foods and medication under the private label Vethical.
Veterinarians need all the tools they can get to be productive, even after all the barking recedes to a whimper. Patient records need to be updated after each visit—and ideally during the visit. Often, human clients need to be educated or reassured about a pet’s prognosis or consoled when that prognosis isn’t good. Seemingly simple tasks can be challenging, such as photographing an animal’s condition when a camera isn’t readily available or adding a photo to the patient’s chart when there’s no ready way to do so.
At VCA Antech hospitals, clipboards and paper files are used in conjunction with computer systems. But deskbound computer stations are not ideal clinical tools because doctors constantly move among examining rooms, their offices, and reception areas. The company’s computer system has served as a highly stable and fast transaction-processing practice management solution, but VCA Antech wants to improve its user interface and the flexibility with which clinical workers can use it.
“Our doctors want to be as helpful to clients as possible, and our goal is to provide a system that facilitates doctor-client relations,” says Bailey. “We are looking toward technology to enhance our clients’ experiences when they visit our hospitals, regardless of service, which can run the gamut from a preventative wellness exam to treatment for illness, physical therapy, grooming, or boarding.” Solution
In late winter 2010, Microsoft solicited corporate participants for a prototyping program for a proposed tablet computer. The response from VCA Antech: “We jumped at the chance,” says Bailey. That tablet computer, which runs on the Windows operating system that the company already uses, is Windows 7 slate.
“We saw the potential of adding Windows 7 slates over time as an extension of the desktop experience for our hospital users and our clients, and wanted to do so without increasing the cost and complexity of IT management,” says Bailey. “Moreover, we know we can use Microsoft to support the enterprise environment.” She cites factors including the ability to interoperate Microsoft applications and services; the consistent software tools to manage those applications and services; and the broad partner and developer market that makes it relatively easy and cost-effective to find compatible third-party solutions, consultants, and skilled job applicants.
For prototyping the clinical solution on Windows 7 slate, VCA Antech turned to iLink Systems, a Microsoft National Systems Integrator with multiple Gold competencies. The company was named the Mobility Partner of the Year at the 2011 Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference.
Work on the Windows 7 slate app for VCA Antech commenced in April 2011, and iLink Systems delivered the prototype three months later. That prototype consists of four panoramas—based on the popular Metro user interface on Windows phones—through which doctors can move by flicking their fingers across their screens. The “MyDashboard” panorama, for example, provides at-a-glance views of a doctor’s hospitalized patients, daily appointments, tasks, and prescription refill requests. (See Figure 1.)
iLink Systems built much of the app using Microsoft Silverlight 4, a development technology for creating modern business applications and engaging, interactive user experiences for web and mobile applications. The developers used Silverlight to support custom animations, touch gestures, medical image manipulations, handwriting recognition, and the built-in Windows 7 slate keyboard used in the out-of-browser app.
Bailey and her colleagues are now evaluating the prototype software on an ASUS Eee Slate, which debuted at the 2011 International Consumer Electronics Show. The ASUS device is a 2.5-pound tablet computer with an Intel Core i5 processor, 2 to 4 gigabytes (GB) of RAM, 64 GB of expandable solid-state storage, a 12-inch screen, and a front-facing 2-megapixel webcam.
||Our doctors want to be as helpful to clients as possible, and our goal is to provide a system that facilitates doctor-client relations.
Senior Director of Project Management, VCA Antech
Developers have flexibility in how they develop for the ASUS Eee Slate, and users have flexibility in how they interact with it. The slate supports touch-based finger gestures such as flicks and swipes; handwriting using a built-in stylus; an on-screen virtual keyboard; and a wireless, physical keyboard and stand that turn the tablet into a more traditional desktop device, which doctors can use when they need to create reports or other documents with extensive text.
For now, Bailey is primarily interested in showing Windows 7 slate and the prototyped application to the company’s doctors and other clinical professionals to get their feedback. If VCA Antech adopts Windows 7 slate for production use, the slate would communicate easily via web services with the same back-end systems—such as Microsoft SQL Server—that feed the company’s current applications.
“We’re looking at a timeline of two years or more to possibly adopt this technology,” says Bailey. “The current market positions of the tech players—Microsoft, Google, Apple—aren’t an issue for us. We see this as a time to take a first look at what this technology can offer us. That’s our motivation.”Benefits
As it evaluates Windows 7 slate, VCA Antech is attracted by the potential of the platform to deliver immediate productivity gains, better client service, and enhanced doctor-client relationships—while also supporting better, more streamlined, and more cost-effective IT management.
Potential Productivity Gains
VCA Antech wants a solution that will deliver immediate productivity gains to its doctors and staff. Bailey says that Windows 7 slate holds real promise as that solution. She envisions doctors carrying the lightweight device with them throughout their day. At any time, they could use it to get information on their hospitalized patients, approve prescription refills, review radiographs, check upcoming appointments and procedures, and take pictures of patients’ conditions.
Bailey says that part of the productivity gain she envisions from Windows 7 slates comes from the form factor itself. “Carrying a laptop PC throughout the day isn’t practical for our doctors,” she says. “And the small screen of a phone wouldn’t be sufficient for them to view information—especially high-resolution medical images—that they need to do their jobs.”
|Figure 1: VCA Antech’s MyDashboard on Windows slates gives veterinarians |
comprehensive, at-a-glance information.
The Metro UI that Windows 7 slate natively supports also deserves credit for encouraging productivity, according to Ambuj Parihar, Mobility Practice Manager at iLink Systems. “The Metro UI design packs a tremendous amount of functionality into the Windows 7 slate screen, while making that functionality easy to find and move through,” he says. Parihar also cites productivity-enhancing factors such as handwriting recognition that makes handwritten notes searchable and eliminates the need to rekey or transcribe data into patient records.
“We think of Microsoft as having the vision to produce an important tablet PC, and this is a great early opportunity to evaluate Windows 7 slate—and to provide feedback to Microsoft that will help make the device potentially of greater benefit to us and others,” says Bailey.
Better, More Streamlined, More Cost-Effective IT Management
Beyond the benefits of Windows 7 slate to the doctors and clinical staff at VCA Antech, the new tablet promises benefits to the company in better, more streamlined, more cost-effective IT management.
“We’re interested in Windows 7 slates because so much of our environment already runs on Microsoft,” says Bailey. “From a maintenance and support perspective, it only makes sense for us to choose technologies that our IT people already know how to manage, that will interoperate with our existing infrastructure, and that we can support with the same tools we already use. It means we can do more and spend less time in training our IT staff. When we started thinking about the possibility of extending our systems beyond the desktop, Windows 7 slate was the logical choice to consider. It’s Windows, and we know Windows.”
||The Metro UI design packs a tremendous amount of functionality into the Windows 7 slate screen, while making that functionality easy to find and move through.
Mobility Practice Manager, iLink Systems
Bailey also likes the potential benefit of the already massive independent market around Windows 7 and Microsoft technology. “We’re a lean IT shop here, and we have limited development staff,” she says. “We’re always going to depend on vendors to help us support and expand our infrastructure. Knowing that the breadth and depth of the Windows ecosystem is there is an absolute necessity for us. We wouldn’t be looking to expand off the desktop with Windows 7 slate if we didn’t have that industry backup.”
Enhanced Client Service, Doctor-Client Relationships
Bailey envisions another benefit from the adoption of Windows 7 slate: the potential to enhance client service and the doctor-client relationship. Doctors would have up-to-date patient records on every animal in the practice at their fingertips wherever they happened to be, making it easier for them to provide useful, specific guidance to a client if they suddenly need to substitute for a colleague. The doctors also have a powerful educational tool when they need to explain a pet’s condition or prognosis to its owner.
“Veterinary procedures can be expensive, and they can be complex,” says Bailey. “It would be very helpful for our doctors to sit down with their clients and to pan, rotate, and zoom through radiographic images to fully explain the clients’ options and to help set their expectations—for better or worse.”
And then, Bailey adds, there’s the wow factor: “Our clients will really be wowed by Windows 7 slate,” she says. “It will help to convey that our doctors are tech-savvy, that VCA uses the most up-to-date tools to serve our clients, and that it uses technology to provide the best care and experience for them and their beloved pets. It will help to enhance our clients’ confidence in us and their relationships with us.”
It may even help to tame a bit of the occasional chaos in those hospital reception areas.Windows 7
Works the way you want: Windows 7 will help your organization use information technology to gain a competitive advantage in today’s new world of work. Your people will be able to be more productive anywhere. You will be able to support your mobile workforce with better access to shared data and collaboration tools. And your IT staff will have better tools and technologies for enhanced corporate IT security and data protection, and more efficient deployment and management.
For more information about Windows 7, go to:For More Information
For more information about Microsoft products and services, call the Microsoft Sales Information Center at (800) 426-9400. In Canada, call the Microsoft Canada Information Centre at (877) 568-2495. Customers in the United States and Canada who are deaf or hard-of-hearing can reach Microsoft text telephone (TTY/TDD) services at (800) 892-5234. Outside the 50 United States and Canada, please contact your local Microsoft subsidiary. To access information using the World Wide Web, go to:
For more information about iLink Systems products and services, call (425) 869-8104 or visit the website at:
For more information about VCA Antech products and services, call (800) 966-1822 or visit the website at: