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Benefits of Virtual Desktop Infrastructure to Healthcare

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) remotes user desktops to mobile devices allowing healthcare professionals mobile access to patient records.

By Elizabeth O'Dowd

- Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) has carved out a place for itself in healthcare IT infrastructure. Constant access to electronic health data via the cloud represents the first step in mobilizing the healthcare workplace. VDI takes it a step further by giving end-users access to their desktops though any secure mobile device. Access to personal desktops through mobile devices saves time on retrieving information and logging into cloud service interfaces.

VDI gives users mobile access

Most industries are beginning to embrace VDI because modern corporate culture is moving towards a mobile lifestyle. The healthcare industry stands to gain more important benefits from this mobilization.The ability to give patients more personalized care by accessing their accurate records while on the phone, bedside, or in exam rooms, gives users a modern healthcare experience that patients are beginning to expect and appreciate.

What is VDI?

VDI is a type of desktop virtualization that runs a computer within a computer by using virtual machines stored in data centers (cloud or on-premise) accessed by a thin client (laptop, tablet, smartphone, etc.), to present users with their personal desktop on any device.

Instead of logging into a cloud service and bringing up a personal profile stored on the cloud, VDI allows end-users to use a simulated version of the desktop on their main computer on whatever endpoint device they use to access it. Changes made to the desktop on the mobile device will be made when the desktop is accessed again later on the end-user’s main computer and vice versa.

VDI also makes use of authorized virtual private networks (VPNs) which allow users to securely access their desktop with a mobile device from anywhere. This can be useful in instances where doctors or specialists need to travel to other medical institutions or when medical professionals visit patient homes or other home health settings.

Not only is VDI useful to users, but it can generate savings by consolidating the management of desktops to one place by allowing IT departments to distribute all patches and updates in a centralized manner because desktops are no longer deployed on individual user devices. Secure mobility can be implemented without purchasing separate enterprise mobility management solutions or corporate owned devices. Bring-your-own-device (BYOD) programs can be deployed by accessing desktops using containerization and gateways. Organizations don’t need to budget for better computers because the latest functioning PCs are no longer needed.

What makes VDI different from desktop virtualization?

Desktop virtualization and VDI are very similar and often used interchangeably by sales teams and marketing professionals, but the way they work and their final product are different. Before looking into specific vendors, it’s important to know the difference and identify which would be a better fit for an organization.

Desktop virtualization functions by running a virtual machine (VM) on a desktop computer and allowing the VM to access the desktop stored in the data center. VDI uses a VM that is stored in the data center and supplies hosted desktop images to the end user. While that still may sound similar, this allows VDI and desktop virtualization to serve different purposes.

Desktop virtualization is the foundation for all forms of virtualization, but it is more limiting than VDI because the VM is stored on the thin client. The VM is reaching from the device into the data center where the desktop lives.This means the desktop is available only from that device and can’t be accessed remotely. VDI uses a gateway VPN the end-user signs into to access the virtual machine that lives in the data center, not the thin client. This means that any endpoint with a gateway installed can access the VM to gain access to the desktop.

If VDI isn’t in an organization's immediate future, it’s important to be aware of and consider the future possibilities of widespread adoption of this technology. If an organization is looking into healthcare cloud technology or looking to scale up their solution for the future, considering how VDI could fit into and work with existing cloud solutions in the future is a great step to take.

As cloud technology becomes more widely adopted, ways to cut out unnecessary steps such as hardware and streamline processes for mobility and convenience will become just as widely adopted, creating a better experience for patients and healthcare professionals.

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