VMware Desktop Virtualization helps health care providers improve patient care

Palo Alto 06 February 2008United States health care providers of all sizes are turning to VMware virtual desktop solutions to relieve many of the "pain points" of desktop computing, including high management costs and low data security. National providers such as Kindred Healthcare and major regional providers including Huntsville Hospital and Metropolitan Health are now using VMware Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) to give care providers the mobility and reliability they need to access patient information at the point of care, and at the same time, enable data centre staff to manage IT more efficiently with the strict security controls required by government regulations and patient privacy needs.


VMware VDI integrates VMware Infrastructure 3 and the new VMware Virtual Desktop Manager 2 in an easy-to-manage desktop virtualization solution. With VMware virtual desktops, health care providers can host traditional desktops as virtual machines running on centralized servers in a data centre, making management easier for IT staff and controls on sensitive data stronger. Caregivers can access their virtual desktops remotely from any traditional PC, laptop, or thin client, giving them greater flexibility. IT administrators can authorize access only to applications and data necessary for each user, and data never resides on the physical device, preventing loss or theft of data. This level of control is especially important in the health care industry where the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) mandates the security and privacy of health data.

Kindred Healthcare is the largest post-acute health care provider in the United States with approximately 230 nursing centres, more than 80 long-term acute care hospitals and more than 35.000 licensed beds. Kindred needed a better way for its nursing and physician staff to easily access patient data while complying with HIPAA requirements. Kindred deployed VMware virtual desktops on wireless thin clients, mounted on rolling carts. This has enabled caregivers to enter and access medical information securely at the bedside, while letting IT centrally manage patches and upgrades, control access to sensitive data, reduce hardware costs, and provide better patient support.

"Our medical staff needs the flexibility to move around the point of care, without being hampered by cumbersome PCs", stated Rob Rhodes, technical consultant at Kindred Healthcare. "Our 'Workstation on Wheels' solution, using VMware virtual desktops on thin clients, can run on a single charge all day long, giving doctors, nurses and clinicians unfettered bedside mobility without interrupting access to patient data and care information."

Huntsville Hospital, a not-for-profit hospital in Huntsville, Alabama with more than 900 licensed beds, has a similar challenge. As a quickly growing organisation in a highly regulated industry, Huntsville was looking for a way to enhance the manageability and compliance of its desktop computing infrastructure, while engaging more seamlessly with the community of referring doctors in the surrounding region. The hospital needed to roll out a new, powerful medical information application throughout its network, while protecting HIPAA-related data.

Deploying hosted desktops on VMware, the hospital was able to increase their desktop deployment agility, lock down sensitive patient data and reduce the cost and complexity of desktop management. The combination of thin clients and blade servers used to access the centralized virtual desktops reduced power consumption across the hospital by 78 percent, improved longevity with lower hardware maintenance needs and made wireless thin clients on wheeled carts available to hospital staff for a full shift on a single charge. At the same time, the hospital is now able to provide doctors in the surrounding community the ability to remotely access centralized patient information via VMware virtual desktops through the Internet using a web browser, while maintaining the security of that data.

"With VMware virtual desktops, all of our sensitive patient data is stored in the data centre, not on user machines, enabling improved compliance with HIPAA regulations", stated Tony Wilburn, network specialist at Huntsville Hospital. "Additionally, we've been able to standardize desktop set-up, and centralize desktop management, which lowers support costs with fewer desktop technicians deployed to sterile hospital environments. VMware virtual desktops reduce maintenance and hardware costs because memory and CPU can be increased at the server, and desktop provisioning takes less than 15 minutes. With virtual desktops, we no longer need to dispatch desktop technicians out across the county to deal with problems doctors encounter on the client devices."

Metro Health is an independent, integrated health care system serving 130.000 patients across Michigan's Kent, Ottawa, and surrounding counties. As Metro Health planned a move to the newly constructed "hospital of the future" and explored options for a state-of-the-art desktop replacement solution to take them into the next decade, they turned to VMware virtual desktops for the hospital network and more than a dozen affiliated area clinics.

Virtual desktops are used for mobile workstations and as a robust business continuity solution as well. With two data centres, one at the hospital, and one at a satellite office, Metro Health is secure in the knowledge that if one fails, the other is available as back-up, keeping mission-critical medical applications available to doctors and nurses at all times. With the actual remote PC session running on VMware ESX servers in their data centres, sensitive patient data is kept secure in the data centre, giving Metro Health ease of mind with regard to HIPAA compliance.

"We have all of our users on VMware virtual desktops, from doctors and nurses accessing medical records from any thin client workstation, to technicians who view X-rays, to professional staff accessing any of our 450+ applications", stated Chris House, senior network analyst at Metropolitan Health. "VMware virtual desktops have streamlined the deployment and management of desktops to our staff, and we're confident it's a robust desktop strategy that will pass the test of time, and keep our patient information safe."

Analyst firm IDC predicts the total market for Virtual Desktop Infrastructure products and services will exceed $1 billion by 2011. "Virtual desktop computing helps enterprises across a number of industries improve management efficiency, data security and productivity with little change in the computing experience for many types of users", stated Michael Rose of IDC. "For health care organisations, where lives depend on having information at your fingertips, virtual desktops are an exciting component of a state-of-the-art hospital of the future."

"VMware virtual desktops give health care providers the flexibility and control of a virtualized data centre while providing end users with a desktop experience that looks and feels like their normal desktop", stated Jeff Jennings, vice president of desktop products and solutions at VMware. "VMware desktop virtualization solutions help hospitals of all sizes to manage and support the flexible needs of their workforce while strengthening security and control over resources and sensitive patient information. These health care organisations join tens of thousands of enterprises worldwide who have deployed VMware virtualization solutions across their organisations."

VMware is a global expert in virtualization solutions from the desktop to the data centre. Customers of all sizes rely on VMware to reduce capital and operating expenses, ensure business continuity, strengthen security and go green. With 2007 revenues of $1,3 billion, more than 100.000 customers and more than 10.000 partners, VMware is one of the fastest growing public software companies.

Leslie Versweyveld

[Medical IT News][Calendar][Virtual Medical Worlds Community][News on Advanced IT]