VMware Gives Health Care Prescription

Virtualized desktop infrastructure can help health care providers improve security and compliance and reduce costs. 

Huntsville Hospital is implementing VMware's virtual desktop infrastructure to improve infrastructure management, security and compliance and to reduce costs.

With approximately 900 beds and a network of referring physicians spread out geographically in the region, desktop management and troubleshooting was extremely difficult, said Tony Wilburn, a network specialist at Huntsville Hospital, in Huntsville, Ala.

However, the VDI significantly has reduced the time it takes to manage and troubleshoot users' PCs and allows referring physicians to access the centralized patient data via a Web browser, Wilburn said. "We no longer need to dispatch techs out across the county to deal with problems [that] doctors encounter on the client devices," said Wilburn.

Huntsville Hospital has deployed about 900 virtual desktops across the organization, and by June 1, 2008, the hospital expects to have 3,200 virtual desktops deployed, he said.

With a VDI, caregivers can access any necessary patient information from any physical machine. Because doctors don't have to go far from a patient's bedside to access their medical information, patients are treated more quickly and get more accurate, higher-quality patient care.

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The VDI also allows hospitals to centralize patient data into a single data center, giving administrators a much higher degree of control over who can access patient records.

Wilburn noted that storing patient data in the data center, rather than on user machines, helps Huntsville Hospital comply with HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) regulations and allows administrators to access and provide compliance information quickly and securely.

Virtualization also helps secure information from physical theft, which is a significant compliance challenge for health care organizations.

"If someone stole a PC off the registration desk, there's a good chance they'd get patient information. If they grab one of our thin clients, they get a doorstop," said Shawn Scott, a network specialist at Huntsville Hospital.