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Virtualization News

Using Virtual Machines to Advance Health IT Infrastructure

Virtual machines help organizations cut back on health IT infrastructure costs and support planning a better, more efficient network.

health IT infrastructure virtual machines

Source: Thinkstock

By Elizabeth O'Dowd

- As organizations continue through their digital transformations, more are embracing virtual machines (VMs) to support their health IT infrastructure. Virtual machines support the growth and flexibility of the cloud and also allow organizations to take full advantage of their on-premises hardware.

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) options are currently being used, meaning that the on-premises hardware utilized to run traditional software is no longer as important of an investment. Organizations can cut back on hardware spending and deploy virtual machines that can scale to meet demands.

VM technology provides benefits to healthcare organizations, including cutting back on energy and hardware costs, improving efficiency, security, and maintenance.

As users express a desire to embrace more mobile tools to treat patients more efficiently and have better access to digital tools, the opportunity to implement virtualization is significant to every employee within an organization.

Patients are also coming to expect more personalized care that comes from the quick retrieval of accurate records made possible by end-user usability. VMs are the key to a truly modern healthcare organization, and understanding how they operate is critical to the success of deploying any virtualization solution.

VMs are essentially computers within computers. They take strain off hardware and can be consolidated into one place for better monitoring and ease of access. This allows IT to better monitor security events making HIPAA compliance easier to maintain.

Instead of building a security wall around every device accessing the network, all electronic health data is protected in the data center.

The term virtual machine was first defined by Gerald J. Popek and Robert P. Goldberg as “an efficient, isolated duplicate of a real machine. A virtual machine can support individual processes or a complete system depending on the abstraction level where virtualization occurs.”

The abstraction level is where the virtual machine takes over for the physical machine with hypervisors being the most common type of virtualization. The hypervisor runs and manages VMs on a centralized host machine (on-premise server, cloud server or device) so it can be accessed by all users.

Hypervisors can run more than one VM on a host machine, resulting in desktop virtualization technology. Data is no longer stored on the device used to access it (i.e., thin client), which enables smaller and less powerful devices to access the same information.

The VM can be on the device used to access the data or installed in the cloud and accessed via a gateway.

Hypervisors allow organizations to implement virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) solutions. VDI environments give IT administrators more control over virtual desktops and let clinicians quickly and easily login to their person desktop from anywhere.

VMs also offer organizations another level of security. All user desktops are stored on the host machine, allowing IT to manage every user at once. This level of control cuts down reaction time when malware is detected, potentially protecting records that would have been compromised.

VMs prevent shadow IT by giving users a way to securely access data remotely and eliminates security threats from unauthorized or personal mobile devices accessing the network.

Telecommuters are also able to securely access the same data as on-premise users over a public internet connection via a virtual private network (VPN).

Budgets are always a concern for healthcare organizations and saving wherever possible is crucial. Implementing VMs can save on energy bills when mobile devices and low-power computers are being used.

Additionally, less IT staff is needed to manage a VM system because there is less physical maintenance required.

Reduced cost and improved network planning are two major benefits of introducing VMs into health IT infrastructure.

VMs are good tools to consider deploying more of as organizations continue to plan for a scalable network. Reducing the amount of hardware that needs to be purchased and utilizing existing hardware gives organizations the opportunity to make the most of their existing IT infrastructure.

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