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Using Virtual Desktop Infrastructure in a Healthcare Setting

Deploying virtual desktop infrastructure in healthcare environments can help better secure patient data and reduce login times so clinciains can spend more time interacting with patients.

virtual desktop infrastructure in healthcare

Source: Thinkstock

By Elizabeth O'Dowd

- Managing user environments in a healthcare setting is challenging for healthcare IT professionals. Implementing and managing virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) in healthcare can help organizations have better control over user endpoint devices as well as speed up clinician login times so they can spend more time with patients.

VDI uses abstraction to remote desktop operating systems to mobile devices. VDI separates the desktop environment and application layer from a user’s endpoint device.

Users access their personal desktop via any thin client device on the network without having to go through a long login process.

The desktop operating system is hosted on a centralized server in an organization’s datacenter. Instead of logging into a cloud service, bringing up a personal profile stored on the cloud, and logging into each app individually, VDI allows end-users to use a simulated version of the desktop on their main computer or endpoint device they use for access.

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.

READ MORE: 3 HIT Infrastructure Tips for Success in Healthcare VDI Resurgence

The endpoint device is only used to display the desktop environment so it can be interacted with by the clinician. No data is stored on the actual device, which makes it more secure. Endpoint protection, while still important, is no longer as critical because the data lives and is accessed through the data center.

Virtualizing desktops means that clinicians are not tied to a single device to access their desktop and all of their applications. This is particularly useful in the healthcare industry because clinicians can be called into emergency situation and need to quickly and safely log in and out of their desktop to treat patients in need of urgent care.

Pivot3 Chief Marketing Officer Bruce Milne explained to HITInfrastructure.com in a previous interview that clinicians face challenges at the point of care whether it’s in an admitting room or a consult room, or logging into all the applications.

Clinician login time is also a hinderance to fast patient care. Too much time is wasted logging in and out of applications that could be better spent interacting with patients. Long login times can also put patients in need of immediate care at risk.

“Clinicians need to get all the patient information and to capture their patient data as they’re doing their diagnosis,” said Milne. “We found that clinicians were spending up to ten 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.”

READ MORE: Healthcare Orgs Seek VDI for Flexible, Mobile Desktop Access

Miline explained that healthcare organizations are demanding quick, simplified solutions that are easy to maintain and deploy.

SNHH Desktop Configuration Engineer Scot Tymowicz told HITInfrastructure.com that virtualization also assists healthcare organizations in remaining HIPAA compliant.

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 is IT enforcing a ten 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,” he continued. “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.”

READ MORE: Avoiding the Top 3 Clinical Data Migration Mistakes

Adding virtualized desktops to health IT infrastructure gives IT administrators the opportunity to have more control over desktop environments in a way that makes the more secure. This control also leads to faster login times for clinicians which directly impacts how engaged they can be with their patients.

Providing clinicians with advanced tools can help support them so they can spend more time focusing on patient care. 

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