Can a doctor’s computer operating system place patients lives at risk?

Microsoft’s latest operating system Windows 7 has been slowly filtering it’s way into public use, but is it an operating system that should be used for life critical environments?

Updating the Windows System

Image by sepponet via Flickr

Windows 7 updates are by default stealth updates, i.e. they download and apply themselves without asking, sometimes rebooting the PC. In some cases even when you say no the PC will reboot itself and even XP users will have experienced the slowing down of their computers when an update wants to be installed or rebooted to take effect.

Recently a doctor was using his home computer to remotely connect to his clinic computer in the early hours of the morning in order to discuss a roadside accident scan with a surgeon. The doctor received a pop up message informing him should reboot his computer due to an update. The doctor selected “no” to the reboot message; however, Windows 7 ignored the doctors’ choice not to reboot and restarted his computer by itself. Thereby causing the doctor to loose his connection with the surgeon.  After the reboot the doctor’s data was corrupted by the Windows 7 update which forced the doctors computer to restart part way through a critical medical discussion.

The data corruption caused the doctor to lose possibly a vital 15 minutes as he recovered from the situation caused by the Windows operating system. This is, of course, a single example, however if there is one such case there is a high risk of there being many more such incidents occurring at what might be a life frightening situation. The doctor has since asked for a non-Windows based operating system to conduct future mission critical business.

© 2010 Sue Edmondson of Prem2Pram the premature baby online store

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