Seattle Children’s Hospital’s Latest IT Project Meets with Universal Acceptance

In the fast-paced world of hospitals, even the opportunity to cut just a couple of minutes per person per day on repetitive tasks can add up to thousands of hours of time savings

At Seattle Children’s Hospital, which has 4,760 employees across eight sites, an IT employee noticed that it was routinely taking doctors and nurses about two minutes each to log into any of the hospital’s 5,500 workstations. Once they logged out, the system would lock out the workstation, allowing no one else to use it. Then, at their next location, the doctors and nurses had to log in again — another two-minute wait.

The hospital wanted an infrastructure that would allow staff to access any computer and pull up their own desktops within seconds, securely and reliably. It ended up adopting a centralized virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) with zero-client desktop devices that are designed to replace the PCs.

After identifying the VDI solution, the hospital selected Citrix Systems and Wyse Technologies as its partners. One reason for the selection was that the hospital had been using Citrix XenApp for years to deliver centralized applications to workstations. In addition, Citrix and Wyse had a history of working together and integrating their technologies.

The hospital implemented Citrix XenDesktop, which creates single sign-on access to multiple siloed applications with just one reconnect. For optimal access to the VDI, the hospital implemented 3,000 Wyse Xenith next-generation zero-client devices. The Xenith provides a login interface and VDI. Since the Xenith was made for the XenDesktop, the two technologies interact seamlessly. The implementation team used a simple management plug-in, Wyse Xenith Manager, to support monitors, keyboards, printers, smart cards, CD/DVD, USB headsets, mice, cameras, smart phones, and iPads.

"Prior to implementation, we sent an advance team out to every department," says Drexel DeFord, SVP and CIO of Seattle Children’s Hospital. "Part of what they did was look at every individual PC and meet with every user, and then ask: ‘Is there an application we don’t know about that you have installed only on this PC?’ If there was, we packaged those and put them in each user’s profile."

Now, a user logs in once at the beginning of the day. Then, as he or she moves around the hospital, they plug their smart cards into the smart card reader of any unit they want to use at the time. They type in their PIN, or user ID and password, and are reconnected within seconds. When they leave a unit, they can pull out their smart cards or hit the disconnect button, and their sessions close securely, ready to be reopened by the next user within seconds

There was no significant user training required after the solution was deployed, according to DeFord. The technology gives users the same desktop interface every time, making it totally intuitive. What did present a challenge at first, though, was the efficiency of the technology. "The ability to disconnect from one location, move to another location, and reconnect, was a concept so foreign and ‘magical’ that users had a difficult time understanding it at first," says DeFord. "With this new ability, they had to step back and start to rethink how they could do their work differently.

As of September 2011, about 2,200 of the hospital’s 5,500 PCs have been converted to the new solution, and DeFord expects to complete the deployment by the end of 2011. "Over the next five years, we anticipate that we will save about $6 million in hardware, $1.2 million in staff time, and $1 million in energy costs," says DeFord. "Our doctors and nurses can do their jobs better, without technical distractions, and our IT team can redirect its time and energy from fixing PCs to serving the hospital in more strategic roles."

DeFord, a 25-year IT veteran, adds: "This is the first project I have ever done where I have had universal acceptance," he says. "As more people hear about it, managers and users are coming to me and asking, ‘Can we be next?’"

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