The Children's Hospital in Riga, Latvia, is using the Ubuntu Linux distribution for an increasing number of tasks. About half of the hospital's 600 workstations are now running Ubuntu, says Juris Alins, working in the hospital's IT department.
Linux and other open source solutions were first introduced some 11 years ago, when the hospital started working on its hospital information system. "We got started with a basic HIS that ran on openSUSE Linux, and over time replaced it with our own." The system takes care of many business critical task, such as synchronising data between departments. "When a new patient is checked in, patient data is rapidly made available to medical staff in other departments. Similarly, scan results from for example the radiology department are quickly shared using this system."
Cost-effectiveness is the main reason to switch workstations to Linux, says Alins. "Whenever we see that a workstation does not really need to use a proprietary system, we replace it by Linux. We're happy not to have to spend money on software licences."
For the IT department, using Linux posed no problems. "We're familiar with it, and Linux hosts are easy to maintain and run." However, most new hires to the medical staff in the hospital need to adjust to it. "Computer education in Latvia is dominated by one ubiquitous proprietary software vendor, so for most, Linux will be new."
The use of SUSE Linux was mentioned briefly in a 2012 presentation by IT firm Novell. Alins: "We started with openSuse, but over time new services were transferred to virtualization servers running XEN, and we switched to Ubuntu." The hospital also uses Samba, open source tools for file and print services, to connect workstations running proprietary operating systems. Other open source solutions used in the children's hospital include OpenLDAP for accessing directory information services, mail server Zimbra and network monitoring tool Zabbix.
As far as the IT department knows, in Latvia there is just one other hospital, a maternity hospital, that also uses Linux and other open source solutions.