Medical Mobility Improves Patient CareBy William Atkinson | Posted 01-24-2013
Medical Mobility Improves Patient Care
By William Atkinson
Emory Healthcare, the largest and most comprehensive healthcare system in Georgia, has 10,000 employees located in more than 20 healthcare centers across the state.
Its clinicians are constantly traveling from patient to patient, so increasing their mobility and data and application availability is important. Based in Atlanta, Emory wanted to provide remote desktop services to enable this employee mobility, deliver remote and secure access via multiple devices, and reduce its desktop administrative costs. To this end, Emory is virtualizing its desktops in order to enable doctors and nurses to be more mobile while offering guaranteed access to critical systems for patient care on an anywhere and anytime basis.
A Virtual Journey
The centralization and virtualization of the desktop requires Emory's data center infrastructure to be reliable and resilient, yet still manageable, flexible and agile. To meet this diverse set of requirements, Emory partnered with Egenera, Inc., which provides converged fabrics and infrastructure automation software, and with Fujitsu, which provides information and communication technology-based business solutions, including blade servers.
Emory is leveraging Egenera's PAN Manager software on Fujitsu PRIMERGY BX900 blade systems to manage up to 25,000 individual virtual desktop images. It expects to have 4,000 to 5,000 concurrent yet constantly rotating users, all with a single system administrator, in early 2013.
"We have been on the virtualization journey since 2002," says Dee Cantrell, RN, BSN, and CIO of Emory Healthcare. "Our first deployment occurred in congruence with the implementation of our electronic medical records. In this way, clinicians could begin to access patient information securely from any device, anywhere and anytime."
In rolling out the virtualization technology, Emory used several strategies to win over its new users. "People seek different forums for internalizing information," Cantrell explains.
One strategy was implementing an early adopter approach. "When we roll something out, we usually partner with one or two areas in the organization to be early adopters," says Cantrell. "They get a bit more focused attention that way. They use the technology and then provide us with feedback, which allows us to enhance and refine it before we roll it out to everyone."
Another strategy was to conduct road shows, such as presentations and real-time demos with some of the devices at leadership meetings and faculty-staff meetings, as well as to any group or committee that would let Cantrell's group present to them. "We eventually ended up getting to every department at Emory Healthcare," she says.
The team also communicated via email. "As part of this, we did some unique things, such as send out a 'Tip of the Month' related to virtualized desktops, with a focus on playing up some of the mobility features," Cantrell says.
According to Cantrell, the technology has been well received in terms of usability, access, and security. "Change is always difficult," she admits. "As such, initial reactions included some of the typical responses you get to any new technology: How do I do this? Why does this do this that way?" However, within 30 days, she adds, users couldn't live without the virtualized desktops.
Medical Mobility Improves Patient Care
"We continue to get feedback from users and incorporate that into the next enhancements that we roll out," says Cantrell. "Users aren't shy about providing this, which is a good thing."
There has been a dramatic improvement in the accessibility of desktop services, as well as an 80 percent reduction in data center complexity compared to alternative architectures. "We have also been able to decrease the number of FTEs [full-time equivalents] involved in desktop support and allocate them to other areas," she says.
The technology is also saving Emory $1.2 million a year just from not having to conduct a "refresh" every three years. "With 80 percent of our desktops being full virtualized kiosks, we run the equipment until it breaks, and then swap it for another device," Cantrell explains.
However, the most important benefit, as far as Cantrell is concerned, is the improved service that Emory's staff can provide to patients. "With providers having access wherever they are at any time makes it much better for patients and families," she says. For example, a physician was vacationing in Greece when one of her patients required help. The doctor was traveling with her laptop, so she was able to securely access Emory's employee medical records through the virtualized desktop, prescribe the needed medication and conduct a follow-up with the patient.