- Virtual mobile infrastructure (VMI) is the latest form of virtualization technology weaving its way into health IT infrastructure. VMI takes the concept of virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) and applies it to mobile devices and operating systems giving users the full convenience of mobility without endpoint security risks or incompatible interfaces.
VMI uses virtual private network (VPN) connections and virtual machines (VMs) to route mobile OSs to mobile devices. VDI uses the same technology to route desktop OSs to mobile devices. Routing desktop OSs to mobile devices can sometimes cause functionality issues when apps designed for desktops don’t translate well onto mobile devices. VMI uses container technology and virtual gateways to give users access to an entirely separate device within their device.
One of the biggest concerns about mobility in healthcare organizations is security. Bring-your-own-device (BYOD) device strategies cause friction for users and IT departments. Users don’t want their employers having access to personal data and IT doesn’t want outside malware infecting the network. HIPAA compliance makes mobile security a high priority for healthcare organizations and implementing a VMI solutions can take some of those concerns away.
VMI functions by accessing virtual machines that are stored in data centers from mobile devices. Because the VM is not stored on the device, no data from the healthcare network is stored on the device making VMI a good alternative to traditional BYOD solutions. The secure network is accessed by a gateway that uses a container to separate the personal information on the device and access the VM in the data center. Gateways are presented as widgets employees sign into when they need to access electronic health data or other secure data on a mobile device. Essentially, users are able to have two mobile devices in one.
Any OS or smart device can be used to access the network through a gateway as long as the proper technical specifications are supported. However, iOS cannot be used as the virtual machine because of certain restrictions. Users accessing the network through an iPhone will get the same results as other OSs, but their virtual device will operate on Android OS.
Accessing the network through this gateway completely separates the data stored on the device from the secure data accessed through virtualization benefiting users and IT departments. Users get their desired privacy from their employer because the connection is one way. IT staff cannot access and has no record of personal data or information stored on the physical device. IT has full control over the virtual device and is able to perform maintenance and updates for all users at once. If the physical device is lost or stolen, IT can immediately close the gateway, protecting patient data and the network.
Traditionally, BYOD policies state that if the device is lost or stolen, IT has the right to wipe all of the data, including personal user data. This can cause tension between end users and employers, and discourage users from embracing mobility.
VMI needs an internet or data connection to function which can be a major drawback for organizations who experience frequent outages. Storage of data completely in the cloud and not the device can completely halt productivity and cripple an organization if the outage lasts for an extended period of time.
Control, privacy and efficiency of VMI makes it something that should be considered in a healthcare setting. Doctors and nurses in particular are constantly accessing different records throughout the day as the treat different patients. Off-premise employees like EMTs can mobily join the network and have accesses to medical information that can save lives and improve on-site treatment.