Monday, November 10, 2003

Swimming Against the Current

I ordered a laptop computer over the weekend. A new Apple PowerBook G4 12 inch 867 mHz for $1299 from I had thought at first that I would get one of the new 15 inch G4 laptops, but there have been reports of "white spots" on the screens, plus the cheapest 15 inch model costs $1999. Does the extra few inches of screen space and small increase in processor speed warrant an extra $700? Especially when I've realized that I will also need to get a second computer to act as a server? I decided it didn't.

I have used the demo of my future EMR program on my wife's laptop, a 400 mHz PowerBook and it seemed fast enough, so I'm not worried about processor speed. I could have gotten a refurbished PowerBook from the Apple Store for $1199, but I figured an extra hundred bucks for a new machine is worth it to me. Although my experience with Apple computers is that they are very well made and last a long time, longer it seems than comparable PC computers. For example, the computer I'm typing this on is a 4 year old Blue and White G3, which I upgraded to a G4 and is still going strong. In fact, I plan to use it as the server for my medical office, while I buy a new G5 for my home office.

One of the email messages on the Practice Improvement listserve today is from a doctor having problems with his PC computer. He can't move received faxes from one computer to another, is having trouble using an OCR (optical character recognition) program, backing up data is a "nightmare". He writes:

does anyone know what the error message "not enough server memory" means? i have hired a computer wizard (formerly of intel) to fix everything, and he is stumped. he even called microsoft, and they don't know what's going on. yes, i have run virus scans (norton and others, all up to date), and the system is clean. i have un-installed roxio, iomega, omnipage and have even re-installed the operating system, all to no avail.

the good news is that business continues to grow, but if i don't get this problem fixed, i can't get paid.

send help!

ps-- is this an object lesson about our dependency on computers?

I think this is an object lesson about our dependency on Microsoft which has used its monopoly power to force the acceptance of its inferior computer products. I have used Macs since they first came out, and while they have their share of problems, too, they are MUCH easier to use and fix than PC's. I am forced to use a PC at Kaiser, so I know how inconvenient they are to use. As a physician who will become dependent on his computer for medical record keeping, financial records, medical billing, posting payments, email and fax communication, medical education/references, and basically my livelihood, I think my choice of computer platforms is one of the most important ones I can make.

Sure, I could choose fancier EMR and billing software if I went with a PC, but is that enough to make up for the hassle factor of keeping up with patches to guard against viruses, worms and bugs that can bring down my system at any time? Why would I want to get a computer system that requires a technician to fix (if they even can), when I can fix any problem my Mac has? I just need something that works, and doesn't get in the way. Macs just work.

This is consistent with the concept of a low overhead practice. It is a myth that Macs are overpriced compared to PC's. Actually Macs are the same price or cheaper when compared to a PC equipped with the same features. And how much overhead (time, money, hair) goes into maintaining a PC network? More than a Mac network.

Okay, enough prosletyzing.

It feels strange to be a double revolutionary. Going solo in a managed care world is hard enough. Going solo with a Mac is really swimming against the current.

Countdown: 56 days until target start date