- Hyper-converged infrastructure is proving its worth in health IT infrastructure as organizations seek to improve operations, security, and patient care using virtualization.
Southern New Hampshire Health (SNHH) uses Pivot3’s hyper-converged infrastructure solution to virtualize desktops so clinicians can gain instant and constant access to their personal desktop environments. The hyper-converged environment allows SNHH clinicians to access their personal desktop environments quickly and conveniently by eliminating the need to type in burdensome passwords so they can spend more time treating patients.
How is hyper-convergence used in healthcare?
Hyper-convergence virtualizes elements of datacenter infrastructure from storage and networking to process and memory. The entire infrastructure is managed from a single place, which gives IT administrators more visibility and control over the entire environment.
Hyper-convergence can be run in a cloud or on-premise environment and lets IT administrators control all virtual deployments from one place. This allows for less user error and faster technology speeds.
“A lot of organizations are demanding quick turnkey solutions that are easy to deploy, easy to maintain, easy to configure and they don’t have to take a lot of time integrating all the components in the data center before they can deploy them,” Pivot3 Chief Marketing Officer Bruce Miline told HITInfrastructure.com.
“There’s a challenge with physicians at the point of care, whether it’s in an admitting room or even just a consult room, logging into all the applications they need to get all the patient information and to capture their patient data as they’re doing their diagnosis,” he continued. “We found that physicians were spending something 10 minutes per engagement logging into all the applications, because every time they went into a new room, they had to log in again as their persona on all those applications.”
Easy and secure sign-on
SNHH equips its staff with wireless desktops running virtual desktops on the hyper-converged environment. Clinicians can take their desktop with them to every patient and only need to sign on once.
“We have a bunch of wheeled computers that are on all the clinical floors, emergency room, ICU, etc., and they’re completely wireless,” SNHH Desktop Configuration Engineer Scot Tymowicz told HITInfrastructure.com. “They have batteries in the bottom of the carts and they’re physical desktops like you would find at any desk. The nursing staff and the doctors use these and move around the organization, go into a patient’s room, and do their job.”
Tymowicz explained that clinicians only have to tap their badge on any desktop to gain access to their personal virtual desktop, making login times much faster and allowing clinicians to spend more time with the patients.
“What’s great about the hyper-converged environment is we use a single sign on solution so our staff can tap their badge on the cart, get logged in to the medical applications they use, and start doing their job,” Tymowicz said. “If they’re in the room with a patient doing their job, and there’s an emergency and they have to leave that room, they can quickly wave their badge over the computer to lock it and secure it. Clinicians are no longer tasked with launching and logging into applications, making valuable patient interaction time.”
SNHH is further improving on clinician login times by recently investing in solid-state drives (SSDs). The hyper-converged infrastructure will allow them to easily transition over to with load balancing. SSDs, along with upgraded wireless access points, allow SNHH clinicians to sign in and access their desktop environments in under 30 seconds.
“We are noticing right now that the old environment took our users about two minutes from the moment they tapped in with their badge to a usable desktop where they actually hit the internet or open a medical application and start doing their job,” Tymowicz noted. “Now, we’re seeing login times of 28 seconds on the new environment.”
Maintaining security and HIPAA-compliance
Hyper-converged infrastructure improves on traditional endpoint security because it eliminates user password responsibility.
Tymowicz stated that passwords in most legacy healthcare environments are usually typed out by the user an average of nine times every login. It’s typed to access the desktop, access email, and access the medical applications needed for that session.
“Staff doesn’t want to have to worry about their passwords,” Tymowicz stated. “As HIPAA-compliance becomes more complex and medical regulations become more complex, IT’s job is to make sure that environment is secure. IT can’t do that if nurses are using sticky notes with their son’s birthday on it as their password right on the computer; that’s not a secure environment.
“What is a secure environment,” he continued “is IT enforcing a 10 or 20-character alphanumeric password, with dollar signs and periods and numbers that staff never has to type because all they have to do is wave their badge. We have a highly secure environment, but it’s extremely easy and seamless for the end-users. It’s a win-win for everyone. I made it easier for my end-users to get to their resources to do their jobs, and I win because it’s highly secure.”
When clinicians leave their mobile workspace, they can log out in a way that is HIPAA-compliant without exiting current deployed apps.
Hyper-converged solutions offer healthcare organizations a secure way to manage and deploy virtual desktops that save clinicians valuable time on administrative tasks and spend more time interacting with patients.