Virtual Desktops Follow Hospital Staff On Rounds

VMware's View spins up copies of customized desktops on thin clients throughout the hospital so staff can access patient information from almost anywhere.
"That's very important. The sooner patient information can be entered after seeing the patient, the more accurate it will be," said Cox. Patient charts also are available over the system, so a doctor can see recent entries by nurses on blood pressure or pulse rate more frequently than if they had to go to the patient's room.

Giving health care providers quick access to their virtual desktops has become a priority. A new hospital, Norton Brownsboro, a 127-bed facility opening in Louisville in August, has been designed to have a thin-client niche between every two patient rooms.

The conversion to VMware View began in the fourth quarter last year and is about 30% completed, said Cox. Among the users are 16 to 20 contract medical coders who enter insurance codes for diagnoses and treatments.

They use the Wyse V10L thin clients because the hardware supports two monitors. The coders get more work done per hour by being able to display a patient record next to the form they're required to fill out. That small change makes it easier for coders to work from home, Cox said, saving employee time and medical office space.

Cox says virtual desktops on thin clients still require "tweaks" that VMware recommends, such as turning off the "preview" mode for messages in Microsoft Outlook or eliminating the slow, CPU cycle-consuming fade-outs of tips that pop up on the screen.

But a thin client represents "one-quarter of the capital expense of a full-scale PC." Cox realizes there's still a server expense that must be divided across each block of 160 to 180 desktops, but he maintains that adopting virtual desktops "positions us for the future in a tough economy."

The thin clients have no hard drives or CD-ROM drives to break down. He doesn't know their life expectancy, but with no moving parts he thinks they'll last a long time. If for some reason a user's desktop stalls, the process of troubleshooting consists of rebooting it off the central server. Remote users are restored to operation the same way as end users just down the hall, with no drive to a distant doctor's office to provide service.

"These are much easier to support. We don't have problems from these devices. There's nothing we've wanted to do that's not worked," said Cox.

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