Keith Ali, MD at Creative ITC, explains how healthcare organisations can unlock the full benefits of remote and hybrid working in healthcare
While many businesses have turned technology to facilitate long-term hybrid working in healthcare, the sector faces unique challenges in getting flexible working to work effectively for all.
As coronavirus cases continue to surge, the NHS and other healthcare providers are under increasing pressure and healthcare bosses are “very concerned”. Wary of continued outbreaks affecting service continuity, many providers are still keeping vital care staff in separate shifts. Remote employees can struggle to access hospital systems from home, affecting efficiency and patient care.
While businesses in many industries have turned to virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) to facilitate flexible working, it’s not been as simple in healthcare. IT teams in the sector were facing rising challenges to improve collaboration across multi-disciplinary teams long before the Covid-19 pandemic. On-premise IT infrastructure and resources were already straining to cope with ever-growing demands of data privacy, security and specialist medical applications.
The NHS is among many organisations looking to technology to realise its goal to enable all staff “to work flexibly, regardless of role, grade, reason or circumstance”. But many healthcare providers have struggled to roll out VDI platforms successfully for all staff. Off-the-shelf platforms weren’t designed for power users working with graphics-heavy medical imaging applications. While knowledge workers with basic IT needs can use VDI effectively, healthcare professionals such as radiologists have found themselves effectively chained to their workplace IT set up.
So, how have other industries successfully released power users from desks and workstations? And is it possible for healthcare to follow their example and offer flexible working for all?
Five lessons learned from failed VDI projects
Drawing on years of experience deploying remote working technologies to some of the world’s leading businesses, Keith Ali shares five common reasons VDI projects have failed and how to overcome the challenges.
1. Poor user experience (UX)
Don’t fall into the trap of assuming all staff will have the same needs and interact similarly with VDI – they don’t and won’t. Nothing stops a VDI project faster than bad UX. Inability to share large files and collaborate in real time causes frustration and delays vital medical decision-making.
Look for a supplier with a successful track record in the healthcare sector of designing and deploying remote working technologies that work effectively for all employees. Their experience will be invaluable in unlocking full VDI potential. In the right hands, VDI can be engineered for the most demanding of settings, including where graphics-heavy clinical imaging applications are used. Remote users can enjoy experiences identical to or better than in the workplace with purpose-built VDI solutions.
2. Security and compliance challenges
One of the biggest considerations in healthcare is how to deploy VDI workloads securely and compliantly. Remote working increases the complexity of IT infrastructure and has opened many organisations up to greater risk making it difficult to ensure compliance. Healthcare IT teams need the freedom to decide which workloads to deploy in the cloud and which to retain on-premise.
To optimise ROI, look for a provider who understands how to meet healthcare compliance requirements and offers VDI consumption in the cloud, on-premise, or using a hybrid model in a single seamless solution.
3. In-house IT resources
The challenges of dealing with legacy infrastructure, cloud deployment and app optimization shouldn’t be underestimated. Be honest about your team’s skillset and the resources available to manage long-term VDI deployment.
The managed service provider (MSP) route can quickly pay back with savings on data centre space, infrastructure, upgrades, licensing, application deployment, support, and headcount. Scrutinise their technical credentials and be confident they can deploy the right solution, leverage the latest technologies and provide ongoing management, optimisation and 24/7 support.
4. Flawed financial expectations
Beware of providers promising VDI solutions will save you money. In practice, before and after IT infrastructure costs can remain flat or even rise slightly. It’s more realistic to leverage a specialist provider’s experience and expertise to unlock much greater value for around the same outlay.
When evaluating VDI solutions, ensure cost comparisons are like-for-like. Start by calculating the total cost of ownership (TCO), usually over a five-year period. In-house expenses should include hardware refreshes, virtualisation software and additional GPU, together with costs associated with system administrator salaries, power, rack space, out-of-hours staffing and training costs. To reduce TCO further, seek a provider that differentiates between VDI profiles for ordinary and power users and offers scalable pricing and burst capability.
5. Overlooking the full potential
The value of enabling medical teams to work and collaborate effectively from anywhere should not be underestimated. Done well, it can expedite diagnoses and treatments resulting in improved patient outcomes.
Flexible working for all also has the potential to free healthcare staff from traditional workplaces and restrictive hours. For organisations, it offers the opportunity to retain existing people and attract new talent, contributing to mental health, wellbeing and engagement.
Looking at medical-grade VDI in action
A good example of a healthcare organisation that has successfully unlocked the benefits of remote working is Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust.
The trust’s radiology department carries out over 384,000 diagnostic scans and x-rays each year. Seeking ways to improve workforce mobility and collaboration, it had evaluated various VDI platforms, but soon found they were not up to the demands of clinical imaging settings.
Purpose-built, VDIPOD from Creative ITC means radiologists can now work effectively remotely with secure access to high quality medical imaging and healthcare systems. Freed from the hospital campus, they enjoy superior user performance and enhanced welfare. Working at home feels the same as on-site, with no loss of performance or speed.
The VDI deployment for Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust is delivered as a managed service, with Creative ITC providing 24-hour technical assistance so radiologists can change work schedules or respond to an emergency. In addition to improved patient care the Trust believes its effective flexible working solution will help attract and retain the best specialists.
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