Virtualization News

Healthcare Orgs Seek VDI for Flexible, Mobile Desktop Access

VDI allows clinicians to access their personal desktops from mobile devices, giving them constant access as they move from patient to patient.

By Elizabeth O'Dowd

- Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) is becoming the most prominent user-based virtualization technology for healthcare organizations exploring more advanced infrastructure technology.

VDI allows mobile desktop access

Clinicians are constantly moving between exam rooms and accessing different patient records, often spending valuable time logging in and out of secure desktops. As value-based care initiatives take more of a hold, organizations are looking for technology that will save on infrastructure expenses and increase the quality of patient care which often leads them to VDI.   

“The ability to allow rapid access to a desktop from various clinical areas is a foundational need for most organizations,” Vice President of Information Technology and CIO for Faith Regional Health Services Brian Sterud told EHRIntelligence.com. “There are the same advantages in non-clinical areas; however, they are not nearly as exaggerated as time and efficiency doesn’t demand the same priority.”

While VDI does save organizations money in the long term, initial implementation can be expensive. Deploying VDI for only mobile clinical staff is a way organizations can cut back on deployment costs.

“Most hospitals implementing VDI focus mainly on the clinical areas. If you focus on others, then you really have to weigh the cost versus the benefit. But it’s basically a slam dunk when you put it in the clinical areas,” said Stephen Li, FACHE, Interim Vice President of the University of Vermont Medical Center.

A recent survey conducted by Red Hat found that many organizations are divided on how they feel about virtualization in general. Many organizations indicated that cost was both the biggest benefit and the biggest challenge of virtualization.

Red Hat analysts explained that “though it might seem odd for cost to be both a benefit and a challenge, it’s all about context — in the long run, virtualization can save enterprises money. But getting there takes money, and this may be especially true with proprietary software, licenses and extensive consulting services required for some implementations.”

The value of VDI is beneficial in the long run so long as organizations can afford the upfront deployment costs.  

A recent Finn Partners survey identified the infrastructure technology IT professionals see as most outdated, and desktop virtualization was one of the technologies being phased out of IT infrastructure, which looks odd at first glance given the general rise of virtualization technology across all major industries.

Organizations have found that where the virtual machine (VM) lives is a large part of what makes an end user virtualization solution truly successful, especially in a healthcare setting. Desktop virtualization is being phased out because the VM lives in the endpoint (e.g., desktop, mobile device) so users can only access their virtual desktop from devices with a VM installed on them.

The VM in VDI deployments lives in the data center which allows the user to access their personal desktop from any device with a virtual gateway installed on it. Not only does this give the user more flexibility, but it is also secure by design because no data is ever stored on the actual device.

For healthcare organizations specifically, the difference in flexibility between desktop virtualization and VDI makes VDI a better option because of its ability to keep pace with the evolution of other technology. IT professionals are predicting the death of desktop computers in the workplace and the rise of mobile devices including laptops, tablets, and smartphones. VDI allows users to access their personal user profile with all of their files from any device they choose, making it a great fit for clinicians moving from patient to patient.

The increased popularity of VDI and other virtualization technologies is due to the rise of healthcare cloud technology. Virtualization is a cloud-based technology and is generally compatible with most infrastructure cloud services.

“While the cloud continues to gain ground as a technology that provides more and more value to enterprises,” Finn Partner survey analysts found,  “the services that the cloud helps enable, such as applications requiring intensive processing power and access to large amounts of data, or VDI are also offering greater value for enterprises.”

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