When Frimley Park Hospital came under increasing pressure to make its IT budget go further, the IT team opted to deploy a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) in its A&E department. Desktop virtualisation did not just bring time and cost efficiencies but also led to better patient care and made its IT ready for a bring your own device (BYOD) programme.
The Surrey-based NHS foundation trust serves over 400,000 people across north-east Hampshire, west Surrey and east Berkshire. In addition to the main hospital site at Frimley, it runs outpatient and diagnostic services from Aldershot, Farnham, Fleet and Bracknell.
When the trust was redeveloping its emergency department, the IT team began thinking of ideas to generate extra revenue and to make its budget go further.
The department has over 100 desktop computers, which can all be used by all staff and each has exactly the same functionality. The team wanted a way to manage these desktops from one central location.
"Our emergency department desktops are all set up to have exactly the same functionality, with auto logging and the clinical functionality they need," said Jon Petre, infrastructure lead at Frimley Park Hospital.
"But when it came to software upgrades or maintenance, each machine needed upgrading and monitoring individually, which was incredibly time consuming -- especially if we needed to deploy a new brand new application or system."
Using VDI technology for IT efficiency
The trust decided that virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) would be the most appropriate technology to use across the emergency department.
One of the objectives for the IT team was to have the ability to manage its IT from one central location, while freeing its up workforce to concentrate on the development of strategic technology deployments.
With VDI's ability to concentrate resources onto one platform and replicate software across an entire IT estate, Frimley's staff could simply access the clinical applications required with the minimum of effort, while maintaining a consistent desktop delivered from the datacentre, according to Petre.
"With VDI, we could deploy multiple desktops in a short period of time and provide upgrades to existing software centrally with minimal effort," he said.
The IT team picked VMware's VDI product View over the more popular Citrix VDI product because of the licensing terms.
Unlike Citrix, VMware's licensing is attributable to a client desktop, rather than a server operating system.
The trust then virtualised all its A&E department desktops using VMware View technology and created an easy-to-manage unified system, which has helped it meet its main objectives in saving time and reducing energy bills.
The IT team will use the saved time to focus on more strategic operations, such as developing cloud services to the local area. "We can focus on the big picture now, planning for future deployments rather than upgrading desktops one at a time. We can work on a hundred computers at once, making all the necessary upgrades in a matter of hours," Petre said.
The VDI deployment also helped improve security on-premise, as all of the data is held in the datacentre, rather than cached locally on users' end-point devices.
"With VDI, we've managed to change the old into new overnight and with minimal disruption to the service we provide our staff and, in turn, patient care," Petre said.
Making the hospital IT ready for BYOD
In the future, the team is looking to build on its VDI use by allowing staff to connect to the desktops from their personal tablets – helping them to keep abreast of information on the go.
"We get a lot of queries from the medical team about their personal devices and whether they could start using these on the ward soon. This is something we are already looking into and are confident of deploying bring your own device (BYOD) solution in the near future," he said.
Having a BYOD strategy is beneficial for an organisation in many ways. It has the potential for cost savings because it allows employees to bring their own devices to work and save on corporate-issued devices. Another advantage of BYOD is that it supports a mobile and cloud-focused IT strategy. It also leads to a mobile workforce thereby increasing staff's productivity. But there are also security and legal risks associated with BYOD policies.