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12 March 2024

Why keeping your IT systems up to date is important – Five benefits of planning for upgrades

Simon Hurst

Vice president, UK and Ireland, sales and strategic partnerships

Simon Hurst

New versions of Clinisys’ products come with new features and functionality. But there are more reasons to make sure you’re running the most up-to-date version of WinPath and ICE. Simon Hurst and Felice Di Rienzo explain why you should keep up with updates – and what Clinisys is doing to help.

Clinisys is adopting year-based numbering for upgrades to its laboratory information and order communications systems, WinPath and ICE. Customers can expect to see upgrades from WinPath 2023.1 to 2023.2 and from ICE 8.3 to 2024.1 later this year.  

The newest versions of these critical systems will come with new features and functionality; but what we want to maintain is that ‘bells and whistles’ aren’t the only reason for taking them. There are more fundamental reasons to make sure you’re always running the latest version of our products – and for making updates part of your routine. Here’s five…

One: Better support

The first reason to keep up with product updates is that it makes support much easier. If Clinisys doesn’t have to spend time resolving issues in legacy systems, we can put more resource into supporting the latest versions of WinPath and ICE.

That includes development resource, so support issues that require development should get fixed faster. The closer we can get to having all our customers on the latest version of our software, the better we will be able to support you.

Two: Compatibility

Another issue is compatibility. We have to think about the technical platform on which our software sits, and which includes databases and operating systems based upon leading technologies. Oracle and Microsoft, as examples, have rigorous processes when it comes to upgrades and end of life for their systems, which has become industry standard.

Any changes they make will come through with our upgrades. So, the closer we get to all our customers taking those updates, the more confident we can be that everybody is running software that is compatible with that underlying technology.

Three: Security

One reason that companies like Microsoft are rigorous about upgrading and retiring their products is security. Over time, hackers tend to discover vulnerabilities that can be exploited; and companies respond by conducting penetration testing on their software and putting out patches.

The latest patches will come through with our upgrades. So, we want to make sure that customers are taking them, because we want to reduce your risk of being exploited through a known vulnerability that has been addressed.

Four: Focused development

Another benefit to having fewer versions of our systems in use is that it allows for more focused and efficient development. It’s easier for us to introduce new functionality if we don’t have to think about making it ‘backwards compatible’ with older versions of our software.

Similarly, we make sure that our products conform to the latest national initiatives, guidelines and regulatory standards. So, we want you to be running the latest version, to make sure you are conforming as well.

Five: Faster innovation

Clinisys also works with third-party suppliers. We are seeing a wave of innovation in areas such as image management, decision support, and artificial intelligence; and we want laboratories to ride that wave, to improve efficiency and drive faster, more personalised testing for patients.

However, these companies will invariably work with the latest version of our software. So, if customers want to take up their ideas, they’ll need to be running the right versions of software too. That means you’ll need to upgrade your core systems if you’re not on top of your updates, so you’ll find it easier to deploy innovation once you’re ready to go.

Upgrades in a complex environment  

Pathology IT is an increasingly complex environment in which to operate. Clinisys works with pathology networks that span as many as eight or nine trusts, all of which can have different electronic patient record systems that require significant time and resource to maintain.

Add in winter (and, these days, summer) pressures, laboratory re-accreditation, and holidays, and the window to update WinPath or ICE narrows quickly. That brings us to the second part of our reasoning, which is that pathology networks and trusts should not just be taking our updates but planning them in ‘business as usual.’

If taking updates becomes planned, routine work then Clinisys can make sure it has the necessary resources on hand. Networks and trusts can decide which features they want to activate, and have the resources and people required to test them.

We know that user acceptance testing is the challenging part of this equation. Few laboratories will employ testing professionals, so most will need to pull people from the frontline and generate test scripts for them to use.

Clinisys is doing what it can to address these challenges. As we indicated at the start, we are aiming to deliver just one major product release per year – unless there are substantive issues or security vulnerabilities to address.

One major release means one major upgrade. We have also developed a strategic plan for these upgrades, so we know what we need to do, and what our customers need to do, and how much testing is required.

And we have formed a partnership with US company STS that has created a platform to support the testing process and to log issues and fixes. So, we are looking to make our upgrades more predictable, and to make the update process as easy and slick as possible.

Plan to succeed

What we have argued here is that customers need to plan for those upgrades, and to make sure the testing resources required are available. WinPath and ICE are our products, but they are your software – and we want to make sure you have the best version possible.

The closer we can get to having everybody on the latest version of our software, the closer we can get to delivering the benefits, which include better support, more focused development, a faster route to innovation, better conformity and security, compliance with the latest guidelines and standards – and, of course, the latest, substantial functionality as well.

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