Care New England needed an easier way to handle its myriad applications, many of which could not coexist on the same computer. It decided on a virtualization solution, deploying the Microsoft® Desktop Optimization Pack to take advantage of Application Virtualization (App-V) 4.5. As a result, Care New England has reduced deployment times substantially and is better able to give clinicians the tools that they need to provide excellent patient care.
Care New England, a healthcare system with three hospitals and more than 90 off-site clinics and other facilities, maintains 4,200 workstations that support the organization in providing clinical care and running the business. The organization requires hundreds of applications to help with everything from cardiac monitoring to tracking vacation time.
Care New England faced an IT challenge in that many of its applications are incompatible. “We have a lot of applications that require a certain version of Java, for instance,” explains Keith Lee, End User Support Manager for Care New England. “When we try to put two applications that require different versions of Java on the same workstation, one application usually breaks the other, which causes trouble for users and IT staff alike.”
As a result, Care New England ended up with numerous workstations that were dedicated to a single application. All that computer equipment took up a lot of physical space, and the small IT staff struggled to manage so many computers and maintain a variety of images. The situation also meant that some employees had to use multiple workstations to do their work. “In our billing office, users need to use four different Java-based applications at the same time, so they either run only one application at a time or move from computer to computer. Either choice reduces the amount of work that can be accomplished in a given day,” says Lee.
The situation also was difficult for IT staff. “Even though we tried to remotely address application issues as much as possible, our 15 hardware technicians still spent significant time driving to different sites to fix problems and install software updates,” says Lee.
After a particularly frustrating issue with a Java update, Care New England took a closer look at the way that it handled its applications and decided to investigate virtualization. The organization added the Microsoft® Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP) for Software Assurance to its Microsoft licensing agreement. One of the technologies in MDOP is Microsoft Application Virtualization (App-V) version 4.5, which transforms applications into virtualized,
||We want our clinicians to be doing what they’re supposed to do: caring for patients. With App-V, we’re reducing time required for computer work so that clinicians can focus on the business of healthcare.
End User Support Manager, Care New England
network-available services that are automatically delivered to workstations as authorized users need them.
Care New England worked with VIRTERA—a virtualization consulting firm and Microsoft Gold Certified Partner—on a proof-of-concept project to test the application virtualization process. Over the course of three days in January 2009, Care New England and VIRTERA successfully virtualized four applications: a Philips TraceMaster electrocardiogram management system, the IDX-GPMS group practice management system, a Kronos payroll system, and Adobe Reader. The project also included a start on virtualizing a materials management system from Fastrack Healthcare Systems.
Beyond the proof-of-concept project, Care New England has used Application Virtualization 4.5 to deliver the TraceMaster application to the workstations that need it. “Within about an hour, we pushed the application out to 150 workstations, and we’ve deployed other virtualized applications in our physician billing office to resolve the issues that those employees had with the multiple versions of Java,” says Lee.
The organization plans to continue its virtualization work on those applications as well as any others that it can virtualize. “We’re in the process of prioritizing our other applications because the more we can virtualize, the easier our management will be,” says Lee.
Through its use of virtualized applications, Care New England is streamlining its deployment process and removing a significant number of support headaches for its IT staff. Plus, users can more easily get the specialized applications that they need and focus more of their time on patient care.
Specifically, the application virtualization solution offers:
- Faster deployment. Even with its fledgling implementation, Care New England has seen how much more quickly it can deploy applications and updates with Application Virtualization 4.5 than it could with traditional deployment methods. “With App-V, we enjoy both immediate and ongoing benefits,” says Lee. “For example, it was about 23 times faster to deploy TraceMaster, and we see the same sorts of timesavings for ongoing updating and support. With App-V, we can keep our computers up-to-date and available for clinicians more of the time.”
- Reduced IT support burden. Care New England IT staff will be able to dedicate more time to strategic projects because there will be fewer help-desk calls and less time in the field. “Instead of rushing from computer to computer to resolve compatibility issues, we’ll be able to spend more time interacting with nurses and clinicians to understand their needs and apply technology to help them,” says Lee. “Additionally, we’ll be able to reduce the number of computers that take up valuable space in our facilities. Plus, every application that we virtualize using App-V reduces our overall needs for help-desk and technical services due to the reduction in support calls because of fewer application compatibility issues.”
- Ability to embrace specialized applications. The organization’s use of App-V will help clinicians take advantage of specialized applications. “We’re now able to grant our clinicians’ requests for new functionality because we no longer have to worry about compatibility issues,” says Lee. “Giving people the specific tools that they need will enable them to do more specialized medical work.”
- Better patient care and service. Ultimately, Care New England will be able to provide better healthcare service because of its use of App-V. “We want our clinicians to be doing what they’re supposed to do: caring for patients,” says Lee. “With App-V, we’re reducing time required for computer work so that clinicians can focus on the business of healthcare.”