A VDI and SSO Roll Out Improves Clinical Workflows2018-07-06T13:43:56+00:00

Kootenai Health (Kootenai) is a regional healthcare provider located in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho that provides healthcare services to patients from northern Idaho, eastern Washington, Montana and the inland northwest. Kootenai is anchored by a 246-bed hospital and is embarking on a strategy to aggressively develop their growing regional network of critical access centers, clinics and primary care physician group offices. To support this strategy, T2 Tech Group™ has collaborated with Kootenai to manage multiple strategic IT initiatives, including a roll-out of virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) and single sign-on (SSO) to support 2,000 hospital employees.

“Already recognized nationally as a leader in the quality of healthcare services, by 2020 Kootenai Health is in line to be a comprehensive regional medical center. When we approached T2 Tech, we were aware of their strong track record of delivering value and their results-driven focus. T2 Tech continues to exceed our expectations. They have managed multiple critical IT initiatives while providing substantial savings and creative solutions to maximize the value of our significant investment.”— Steve Garske, Ph.D., Chief Information Officer, Kootenai Health

The Challenge: Support A Massive Roll Out Of VDI And SSO

Beginning in 2012, T2 Tech Group was engaged by Kootenai Health to manage multiple strategic IT initiatives in order to improve patient care and support the hospital’s long-term information needs. One of these efforts is a roll-out of virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) and single sign-on (SSO) to support 2,000 hospital employees. This project revolves around five primary objectives:

  1. Improving clinical workflows
  2. Improving information security
  3. Easing the implementation of computerized physician order entry (CPOE)
  4. Providing a highly-available, consistent computing environment both locally and remotely
  5. Simplifying management of their computing environment

Kootenai Health has invested millions of dollars implementing industry-leading technologies in order to accomplish these objectives and support a wide range of constituents. Upon Completion, T2 Tech and Kootenai Health project a considerable return on this investment along with multiple strategic, financial and operational benefits. Throughout the duration of this project T2 Tech has overcome many unique obstacles with industry expertise and creative problem solving. Furthermore, T2 Tech has developed a transportable solution that can be implemented in many different organizations, and even used as a source of income to further offset implementation costs.

T2 Tech Collaborates With Kootenai To Define And Meet Objectives

To meet the challenges of this large project, T2 Tech collaborated with Kootenai Health leadership to define business objectives that would successfully guide operations. The business objectives of the VDI/SSO project are comprised of two major categories: strategic objectives and technical objectives. What follows is a description of each.

Strategic Objective: Improving Clinical Workflows

Clinical workflows are very fluid. As such, they call for flexible IT systems that can support, rather than hinder, their dynamic responsibilities. Unfortunately, standard physical desktop environments tend to be a hindrance because they fix user information to a single location.

With the implementation of VDI and SSO, clinical computing makes sense again. Clinicians can move freely from station to station and seamlessly resume their desktop session with a simple tap of their ID badge. Logins to both desktop sessions and applications are automated, reducing duplicate logins and down time.

After rolling out VDI and SSO to only 50% of Kootenai Health’s user base, the positive impact has been significant. In the month of February alone, we automated over 250,000 application logins, simplified desktop login processes and significantly reduced desktop login times. This has resulted in significant time savings for clinical staff across the hospital, allowing them to spend more time focusing on patient care. As VDI and SSO continue to roll out, these numbers will continue to grow.

Strategic Objective: Improving Information Security

In addition to improving clinical workflows, VDI and SSO are also improving information security. These improvements are focused on two primary areas: (1) eliminating generic login credentials, and (2) implementing tap and release for secure printing. When it comes to clinical computing, a common problem in many environments is the wide-spread use of generic login credentials. This problem is directly related to the inefficiencies of traditional, decentralized computing environments. Because logins and logouts take much longer in those environments, clinicians have been known to use generic login credentials and leave stations continually logged in to reduce computer wait times as they go about their day.

Despite their innocent motives, the use of generic logins is a critical security issue. If there is a security breach involving a generic user ID, tracking down the source of that breach can be very difficult. With the use of VDI and SSO at Kootenai Health, we have eliminated generic login issues. Since login credentials are tied directly to ID badges, the use of generic logins has become not only a nuisance but an impossibility.

Another common information security issue in clinical environments is related to printing documents containing sensitive patient information. Because clinicians have active schedules, print jobs can easily get lost in the shuffle, putting sensitive patient information at risk. T2 Tech and Kootenai Health are solving this problem through

the use of tap and release printing. Using this technology, print jobs are held on a server until the user arrives to pick them up. With a simple tap of their ID badge, all print jobs tied to that user are immediately released and printed so clinicians can be quickly on their way with sensitive patient information in hand.

Strategic Objective: Easing The Implementation Of CPOE

One of the biggest hurdles to implementing CPOE is buy-in from clinical staff. Change can be a hard sell to nurses and doctors who have developed engrained workflows through many years of experience. However, if nurses and doctors are convinced that new methods and technologies better support their natural workflows, and ultimately save them time, implementation becomes much easier. Because VDI and SSO have drastically simplified the use of computers for clinicians at Kootenai Health, they are one step closer to implementing CPOE with ease.

Technical Objective: Providing A Highly-Available, Consistent Computing Environment To End-Users

One of the most important aspects of providing a highly-available, consistent computing environment to end-users was the initial design and implementation of supporting back-end infrastructure. To ensure high-availability, T2 Tech managed the design and build out of two independent active/active data centers with independent server pods and independent storage area networks (SANs). These data centers are load balanced in real-time to ensure consistent performance and fail-over capability in the event of a data center outage. To provide a consistent computing environment for end-users, T2 Tech leveraged VDI and SSO. These technologies enable end-users to seamlessly move to and from any station within the hospital and pick up their desktop session where they left off. No matter who logs on or where, they get a consistent user experience. Logins to both desktops and applications are tied to ID badges that allow users to simply tap their badge to login or logout. User settings are also carried over from one day to the next, so critical settings are not lost when they leave for the day.

Technical Objective: Simplifying The Management Of A Large-Scale Computing Environment

As computing environments grow, management can become a time-consuming nightmare, draining much-needed time from critical IT resources. With the implementation of VDI and SSO at Kootenai Health, management has been drastically simplified through centralization. T2 Tech has replaced existing workstations with thin clients and zero clients that no longer store local settings. This removes a number of IT support issues from the equation. First of all, desktop hardware replacement is simplified. Since workstation-specific settings are no longer stored on desktop hardware itself, replacing a desktop is as simple as plugging in a new thin/zero client, pressing the power button and naming the device. Secondly, updating software and settings has been simplified because operating system images, applications and settings are no longer stored on desktop hardware. As a result, any respective updates can be handled centrally and rolled-out efficiently en masse. Thirdly, anti-virus has also been simplified, yielding a better-secured, higher-performance environment. Instead of installing an anti-virus client on each machine and running thousands of individual scans, a dedicated management server monitors all desktop session for viruses simultaneously. This allows for continuous virus scanning, without hindering the performance of individual desktop sessions. Together, these enhancements substantially reduce in-field desktop support time, improve response times for trouble tickets overall and reduce IT operating costs through efficiency.

Cutting Edge Technology That Supports High-Performance And Facilitates Scalability

To facilitate the needs of Kootenai Health, T2 Tech utilized cutting edge technology and an implementation method that would allow for optimal value.

The Components Involved

The technology used in the VDI/SSO solution at Kootenai Health allows top-notch performance and scalability as the environment continues to grow. To provide a dependable backbone for the environment, Kootenai Health invested millions of dollars in three critical areas: network, server and storage infrastructure. Network infrastructure is comprised of Cisco Nexus switches and F5 load balancing hardware. Server hardware is comprised of multiple independent Cisco UCS Chassis (Pods). Storage infrastructure is comprised of two independent IBM v7000 Unified SANs. VMware View 5 was utilized to virtualize and deploy desktops. VMware ThinApp 5 was utilized to deploy applications that would otherwise hamper virtual desktop performance by inflating the size of desktop images with applications that are only accessed by certain departments. Wyse thin clients and LG zero clients were used for desktop hardware.

T2 Tech deeply integrated SSO with the solution through the use of Imprivata. As previously mentioned, this allows users to log in and out of any station with the simple tap of their ID badge. SSO also allows for the automation of otherwise duplicative application logons throughout the day. In addition, ID badges have been integrated with printing solutions to allow for tap and release printing via Canon Uni-Flow.

The overall design of this solution includes always-on architecture with two independent active/active data centers, which ensure consistent performance and fail-over capability while allowing seamless testing in a lab environment that perfectly mirrors production. For additional fail-over capability, T2 Tech built a “red-screen” environment into the thin clients, so clinicians can access critical applications through a basic web interface if both VDI environments go down.

Our Method Of Implementation

The implementation of this solution focused on maximizing return on investment (ROI), reducing the impact of change on end-users and repurposing technology where possible. To maximize ROI, the implementation was prioritized by departments who would benefit most from the solution. Although this meant tackling some of the most technically challenging departments first, it helped us quickly improve workflows for the most critical departments and save valuable time where it mattered most. In order to decrease the impact of change to end-users and utilize existing technology where possible, T2 Tech used existing door access cards for machine access, so users have only one card for identification and access around hospital facilities, including the following: doors, desktops, printers and time card punch-in/punch-out systems.

An Innovative Solution To Serve Groups Beyond Kootenai

This solution will serve a diverse group of constituents from physicians, nurses, ancillary staff, pastoral care, surrounding clinics and other providers in the region. To be clear, T2 Tech and Kootenai Health have a vision for this project beyond simply improving the existing computing environment for internal constituents. Because we have built a solid backbone to efficiently scale this solution, there are a number of avenues that Kootenai Health plans to pursue in order to sell this virtual desktop solution as a service to local organizations that cannot afford the infrastructure required to deliver a flexible computing environment. Not only will this improve their environment, but it will help Kootenai Health recoup their initial investment in infrastructure. T2 Tech and Kootenai Health are currently piloting VDI and SSO as a service with a local inpatient clinic to test the solution and gauge how it improves their existing workflows.

Costs And Benefits From Our Collaboration

Our collaboration with Kootenai Health in this initiative will benefit the healthcare organization in many ways, including the following: it will provide strategic benefits that will streamline operations, it will provide financial benefits and a significant ROI, and it will provide operational improvements.

Strategic Benefits Of Our Mutual Effort

As detailed above, there are many strategic benefits to this solution, including the following: improvements in clinical workflows, improvements in information security and easing the implementation of CPOE. Additionally, Kootenai Health is now able to manage their desktop environment with ease through streamlined system/application update procedures and simplified support processes.

Financial/ROI Benefits To Benefit Kootenai Health

T2 Tech and Kootenai Health anticipate financial benefits from two primary areas: time savings for clinical staff and reduced hardware replacement costs. On average, streamlined workflows and automated logins are already saving each nurse 27 minutes per day and each physician 10 minutes per day as compared to previously established secured workflows. This equates to cost savings in excess of $7 million over five years. Savings from reduced hardware replacement costs are also worth noting. Previously, each end device would be replaced every 4 years for about $800. With the implementation of VDI, end devices will now be replaced every 7-8 year for only $544. Over an 8-year period, this will cut end device replacement costs by about 66%, saving the hospital approximately $528,000. At a cost of approximately $2.7 million to implement this solution, Kootenai Health anticipates a full recovery of their investment about 2 years and 8 months after the project’s start date, with a ROI ratio of about 1.5 over 5 years and annual savings of $1.77 million per year thereafter.

Operational Benefits To Support Kootenai Health’s Needs

From an operation perspective, VDI and SSO will drastically reduce support needs. As an example, Kootenai Health expects a 50% decrease in desktop support calls requiring in-person support because of improved system management tools and simplified support procedures. This provides support staff with more time to focus on other needs and responsibilities that are equally important, such as implementing long-term improvements to system performance and planning for future upgrades.

Key Obstacles And Solutions To Overcome Them

While T2 Tech worked on this initiative with Kootenai Health, we assessed barriers, such as the need for more effective training, limited counter space and the need for simple end device configuration. By working together, we planned effective solutions to overcome these obstacles. The obstacles we encountered, and our solutions to them, are discussed below.

Effective Training

T2 Tech and Kootenai Health anticipate financial benefits from two primary areas: time savings for clinical staff and reduced hardware replacement costs. On average, streamlined workflows and automated logins are already saving each nurse 27 minutes per day and each physician 10 minutes per day as compared to previously established secured workflows. This equates to cost savings in excess of $7 million over five years. Savings from reduced hardware replacement costs are also worth noting. Previously, each end device would be replaced every 4 years for about $800. With the implementation of VDI, end devices will now be replaced every 7-8 year for only $544. Over an 8-year period, this will cut end device replacement costs by about 66%, saving the hospital approximately $528,000. At a cost of approximately $2.7 million to implement this solution, Kootenai Health anticipates a full recovery of their investment about 2 years and 8 months after the project’s start date, with a ROI ratio of about 1.5 over 5 years and annual savings of $1.77 million per year thereafter.

Limited Counter Space

In nearly all healthcare environments, counter space is a limited and coveted commodity. The same is true for Kootenai Health. Consequently, maximizing available counter space was a core focus while developing this solution. T2 Tech successfully accomplished this objective. In fact, Kootenai Health’s clinical staff now enjoy more counter space, post implementation. Through the use of thin clients and zero clients, older desktops and monitors with large footprints were replaced with thin clients or zero clients. Thin clients were mounted to the back of monitors while zero clients were integrated into the monitor itself, requiring no additional computer hardware beyond a mouse and keyboard.

End Device Configuration

In large-scale desktop computing environments, end device configuration can be a time intensive process. T2 Tech has drastically simplified configuration management processes for Kootenai Health through the implementation of Wyse Device Manager as a centralized management tool. This platform streamlines configuration processes with simple controls for quickly applying OS updates and wiping/restoring thin clients without losing critical information to avoid time intensive troubleshooting processes when appropriate. Zero client configuration is even less time intensive, since no data is contained on the zero client itself.

User Credential Management

Due to an influx of systems and applications in healthcare, user credential management has become more complicated. Prior to this project, users at Kootenai Health had up to seven different accounts with inconsistent user names and passwords for various systems and applications. Users were not only required to manually log in and out of systems and applications, but they were also required to remember multiple user credentials. By improving Active Directory integration across the board and implementing Imprivata to centrally manage additional application credentials, T2 Tech has significantly reduced the number of user accounts. Additionally, all system and application logins have been integrated with ID badge sensors to automate logins and better secure the environment.

A Transportable Solution That Will Work In Other Healthcare Organizations

The solution T2 Tech designed and implemented is highly transportable. Kootenai Health is delivering a standard Windows desktop with minimal customization through a stable, highly-esteemed VMware virtual platform. As long as applications are Windows-based and not dependent upon specialty USB peripheral devices, this solution can be easily transported to other healthcare organizations and large-scale environments in other industries. While the potential up-front infrastructure investment is not insignificant – including storage, network, servers, end devices and licensing – the resulting operational improvements and ROI we have witnessed, justifies the cost.

About T2 Tech Group

T2 Tech Group specializes in tackling difficult technology challenges and transforming IT liabilities into valuable assets for clients in a range of industries. Since its founding in 2006, T2 Tech has built a reputation for delivering high-quality technology consulting and management advisory services to executives and IT leaders. Unlike many consulting firms, T2 Tech has no financial interest in vendor selection, freeing the company to focus completely on realizing customer goals. At T2 Tech, we advocate for our clients; approach each project with no bias; and practice the highest levels of integrity, experience and expertise. For more information about T2 Tech Group, visit t2techgroup.com and connect with us on Twitter @T2TechGroup.

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