VDI as a BYOD strategy: pros and cons

October 22, 2014 in Medical Technology

Wes Wright, chief information officer of Seattle Children’s Hospital, had a couple big reasons for embracing a virtual desktop infrastructure strategy for the 323-bed tertiary care facility. “Speed and ubiquity,” he says. But soon he found a bonus.

[See also: BYOD tips: Keep it simple, be nimble]

VDI enables users to access desktop environments, hosted on remote servers, via the network. It offers a more centralized computing strategy that makes it much easier for IT admins to manage, compared with legions of PCs, each with its own unique issues.

It also offers quicker access for clinicians.

[See also: CIO sings the praises of HL7 analytics]

“Providers needed to get to the EMR a lot faster than I was able to provide for them with a PC,” says Wright. “From log-on to application, times on a PC roughly averaged out to two-and-a-half minutes to be in the patient record and get working. That can be an eternity when you’re a provider walking into a room and dealing with a patient.”

With VDI, he says, “I took that two-and-a-half minutes down to 43 seconds for their initial log-on for the day, and then as they move around from device to device to device, we’ve got it down to 12 seconds from one device to another.”

The “ubiquity,” of VDI was another selling point, says Wright.

“Because I’m deploying zero-client devices out there, I can put them anywhere I want,” he says. “I don’t have to worry about data being on there and the theft of that data. Also, they’re super cheap – maybe half the cost of a PC – so I could afford to deploy many, many more of those devices.”

Those costs savings ripple out, too. If he’d had to deploy “another 5,500 PCs,” says Wright, “then I’d have to bring on another one, maybe two desktop personnel, just to keep those PCs running. When you have a zero-client device that is simply serving up a virtual desktop, that is no more manpower than I had before I deployed that device.”

Also, the zero-client device uses around seven watts of power to run, he says, while a PC takes around 70. That saves $100 a year per device; multiply that out, and “all of a sudden I’ve saved half a million a year in power.”

Wright deploys 5,500 of these devices across Seattle Children’s, he says, but “at any one time I’ll only have 2,800 clinicians up and using VDI.”

The strategy, he says, has had an “added benefit” that he hadn’t realized at first.

“VDI is our BYOD strategy,” says Wright. “Anyone can bring any device in, which is particularly good at a research institute.” (Seattle Children’s is attached to a 1,200 person research institute, one of the top NIH grant-getters for pediatric research.)

Since “researchers seem to favor Apple products over Windows,” he says, “I can let them bring in, or even put on the network, an Apple device and let them do whatever they want in that environment. If they want to access corporate data, the ERP system, their shared files or something like that, then they come in and get a virtual desktop and run it on top of whatever they’ve brought in.

“I just kind of fell into a good BYOD strategy there,” he says.

Not that all these pros are without their cons. Or at least one big one.

“There’s always a cloud to go with the silver lining,” says Wright.

Put simply: “That’s a lot of eggs in one basket,” he says. “I have 2,800-3,000 users during the day. If it decides to burp or something goes south, I have 3,000 people that don’t have the ability to do anything, frankly.”

But Seattle Children’s has made some “really good strides” toward ensuring unwelcome downtimes like that don’t happen.

Still, when asked to offer advice for other providers who might be thinking of trying out a VDI strategy, he says to consider an added layer of security.

“To do it over again, I would look to the cloud,” says Wright. “Both AWS and Azure are starting to offer VDI from the cloud. I’m not sure I’d go 100 percent in the cloud, but I’d certainly engineer – and I am engineering – the contingency strategy to take advantage of that VDI in the cloud service. Don’t rule that out when you’re looking at VDI.”

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Article source: http://www.healthcareitnews.com/news/vdi-byod-strategy-pros-cons

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