How about a Chromebox for patient web access?

In the run-up to building our new health center in Anchorage, we had plans to buy and deploy kiosk-style computers in the facility. These would be made available for patients to access a patient portal or our web site. But three things got in the way:

  • True kiosk hardware that’s hardened against public tampering is very expensive, and we needed other stuff more
  • We hadn’t yet launched a patient portal, so the value was diminished
  • Configuring, deploying, managing, and supporting kiosk PCs is a hassle we didn’t want eating up valuable IT staff time

So no kiosk PCs for us. At least not yet. Someday… someday…

But you? Maybe you’re ready to make a few Internet PCs available for the public to use in your facility, but it needs to be safe and low-impact. How about trying out a Chromebox as a great alternative to a locked-down Windows or Linux PC?

Running Chrome OS, the Chromebox (like the Chromebook) is basically a stripped-down custom Linux that runs a Google Chrome browser and a few plugins (like Flash) that makes the web work fine without all the Windows cruft. It also retails for just $330. It auto-updates to the latest Chrome build every so often, staying current both in features and security. If you haven’t used Chrome OS lately, you may not know that it now includes a Guest mode that doesn’t save any information between user sessions. I’ve been a Chromebook user on and off since last summer and I like the OS for a lot of web work.

Why mention all this now? Well, Samsung is releasing a revised Chromebox soon, as reported yesterday: Meet Samsung’s new Chromebox, same as the old Chromebox (Updated).

However, this news comes at a time when Chrome OS devices are largely unavailable. The new ARM-based 11″ Chromebook is sold out as of this writing — and it sold out pretty much at launch back in November. The Chromebox is now only available used through Amazon, and is sold out at Staples, sold out at TigerDirect, sold out everywhere. Google and Samsung have not announced when Chromeboxes will be available again — but you know they’re coming, given the redesign.

Whenever you get your Chromebox going, you’ll need to bring your own monitor, keyboard, and mouse. And you might need a kiosk or desk. Finally you might also want to get a Kensington lock to tie down the Chromebox.

While you’re waiting for Chrome OS device stock to appear, consider a few resources. First up, a review video from mid-2012 when the major revamp of Chromebooks and Chromeboxes came out. Some things have changed then in the OS since this video was shot, but on the whole this is a good intro:

The written review at The Verge is also good.

Meanwhile, there’s yet another alternative if you want an Internet PC for the public without the hassle of rolling your own Windows or Ubuntu box. HP now makes the sexily-named HP Passport 1912nm 18.5-inch Internet Monitor. It’s a custom Linux build that puts users into a browser space with no configuration options. One wonders how serious HP is about this product (although the same could be said about Google, really). But the good news? Just $200 gets you the screen, the OS, keyboard, and mouse all in one box.

If you’re using Chrome OS devices in your healthcare organization, I’d love to hear about it.