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How Can Virtualization Improve the Healthcare Industry?

Virtualization can greatly benefit any healthcare institution by providing more efficient access to shared records, better security and easily transition to mobile.

By Elizabeth O'Dowd

Virtualization is one of the newer cloud technologies that is gaining popularity across businesses from the enterprise to mid-market level. Not only is it a more mobile and lower maintenance way to have access to all the files needed by the end-user, it also allows the IT department to have total control over desktops and mobile devices accessing data through their secure network.

Virtualization in healthcare

According to IT analyst firm Gartner Inc, virtualization is “the abstraction of IT resources that masks the physical nature and boundaries of those resources from resource users. An IT resource can be a server, a client, storage, networks, applications or OSs. Essentially, any IT building block can potentially be abstracted from resource users.”

Virtualization could be the key to working through some of the hangups that can prevent effective and efficient information sharing between health systems, hospitals and large physician practices by eliminating a need to communicate in order to exchange health data or request any documents within a care setting. With virtualization, IT professionals can set up security clearance levels for an unlimited amount of facilities accessing the same community remote server, making things more secure and efficient for healthcare professionals and patients. These servers can be accessed via thin clients or computers that don’t contain a lot of expensive hardware, saving organizations money.  

How does virtualization work in a business?

The main goal of technical advancement is to make more information accessible through a smaller device. Desktop virtualization, the most common type of virtualization,  takes that concept even further by eliminating as much hardware as possible while still getting the level of performance expected by an active user. Cloud storage technology eliminates the need to store information on an endpoint device. As a result, desktop virtualization eliminates the need to download any information onto the device at all including documents and applications.

READ MORE: Utilizing Cloud-Native VDI Offerings in HIT Infrastructure

Virtual machines are programs that emulate a computer via special software designed specifically for that purpose. When the user logs into their desktop, they will find an application similar to a smartphone app. This application is called a gateway, which is a secure way to access the remote or local server. This desktop is unique to every individual user, just as if the user space was on their actual computer with their own personal preferences and file organization.

Virtualization provides more benefits than just the ease of file sharing and the elimination of some hardware. Maintenance is also more cost-effective. The IT department does not have to spend nearly as much time resolving hardware issues, and virtualization eliminates technical issues accredited to users not updating their operating system (OS) when patches or other security updates are released. IT has complete control over every desktop, because it is essentially the same desktop which is referred to as the “golden desktop.” When a new OS update is released, IT only has to update one desktop one time and everyone is up to date.

Virtualization also works as a backup and disaster recovery service, so if a device is lost or corrupted in any way, IT can remotely shut the gateway. All the user’s data isn’t only saved but can then be accessed from a different device with little disruption to the user experience.  

Virtualization is not limited to desktops. There are several versions of virtualization, one being virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) which remotes desktop OSs to mobile devices and virtual mobile infrastructure (VMI) which remotes Android OSs to mobile devices.

How does virtualization benefit the healthcare industry?

READ MORE: Cloud-Based Virtual Desktop Infrastructure Growing in Health IT

Healthcare is one of the industries that can stand to benefit the most from virtualization, especially virtualization in its mobile form. Since electronic health records (EHR) need to be shared between different doctors, specialists, and facilities, it is more important than ever for that information to be just as easily accessible as it is secure.

Virtualization allows organizations to set clearance parameters so only the right people have access to certain files.The IT department can easily monitor the cloud, and endpoint breaches are more difficult than ever. Healthcare institutions can share documents in compatible formats, easily keeping records updated and accessible.

Beyond security, there is the convenience. Healthcare professionals are notorious for always being on the move, and with each patient, there is a new record that needs to be accessed. There simply isn’t time to be searching for data in such a fast-paced environment. Having access to every file and application on a tablet or laptop anywhere is going to become the norm for the doctor-patient interaction.

The future of healthcare is in the cloud, and virtualization is only going to get more advanced. Adoption of this new strategy will ensure seamless integration between quality healthcare professionals and accurate, secure information.

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