VMware Virtual Desktops Find Homes in Hospitals

VMware is looking at the health care industry as one of the key areas as it looks to grow its VMware View virtualized desktop environment. Several hospitals say they've been able to save money, reduce power consumption, and make it easier for doctors and nurses to get around by using VMware View. VMware is finding itself in an increasingly competitive space, with vendors like Microsoft and Citrix looking to grab larger shares of the desktop virtualization space.

VMware officials are touting the attention their desktop virtualization technology is getting from hospitals, which are using it to enable health care providers to more easily move from one patient to another and to streamline the tasks of upgrading applications and protecting data.

VMware June 9 highlighted the work administrators at Norton Healthcare, St. Vincent's Catholic Hospital and Riverside HealthCare are doing with VMware's View, which enables users to run virtual desktops on central servers in the data center that can be accessed from any thick- or thin-client device.

The health care providers can see their own desktop environment, complete with all the clinical applications they need, and can quickly access medical and patient information.

"With VMware View, our physicians can go to a thin client, log in, access a patient list and then walk down the hall to another thin client, and their patient list would be right where they left it," Brian Cox, director of customer service for Norton Healthcare, said in a statement. "The staff recognized the benefit of that capability immediately."

VMware launched the latest version of its VDI (virtual desktop infrastructure) in December 2008, and included a number of new tools, including View Composer, which enables better management of storage resources in a VDI environment. Another new feature is Offline Desktop, which lets users work on their virtual desktops while offline and then synchronizes the new information when the user goes back online.

VMware is in an increasingly competitive space, with rivals like Citrix Systems and Microsoft looking for better traction in the virtualized desktop arena.

The health care field, with its need for doctor mobility and to protect sensitive patient data, is an area that VMware is targeting. The mobility aspect was a key issue for Riverside Medical Center, in suburban Chicago, according to Wayne Kelsheimer, corporate director of information services.

Kelsheimer said the facility initially looked at a virtualized desktop environment to avoid a hardware refresh and to make it easier to roll out applications. Making it easier for health care providers to more easily move around also has been an advantage.

"Our nurses are able to go up to any workstation or mobile medical cart and get their same desktop on any device," he said in a statement. "We were also able to repurpose some of our existing desktop devices into thin clients, leveraging the investments we had already made in this equipment."

St. Vincent's Catholic Medical Center in New York saw a way to save money and reduce power consumption by going to a virtualized environment.

"With VMware View, we are able to move to a 'zero footprint' device, reduce power consumption and provide our emergency staff department an always on and available desktop," Kane Edupuganti, director of IT operations and communications for the hospital, said in a statement. "We plan on continuing desktop virtualization across nearly 5,000 endpoints in order to maximize ROI in areas outside of IT."