Chances are, you have heard of Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI), and know what it is/how it works. You may be debating a VDI initiative internally, or just contemplating its overall value. Is VDI worth the investment? We think it is, and here is why:
1. Improved Workflows
One of the biggest arguments for implementing VDI in healthcare is the potential for remarkable clinical workflow improvements. Clinicians work differently than many other professionals. Instead of sitting at a single workstation for 8 hours and leaving for the day, clinicians spend a large portion of their time moving from one room to the next, caring for patients. This creates unique IT challenges since traditional desktops store and process user information locally and do a poor job of supporting dynamic workflows.
VDI drastically changes these dynamics. Rather than using local desktop machines to store and process user information, desktops are virtualized and stored in a centralized data center. As a result, desktop sessions and user data are no longer held hostage by local machines. This allows clinicians to freely roam from room to room without carrying around a bulky device or pushing around a monstrous computer on wheels (aptly know as a COW). As clinicians move to new stations, their desktop sessions follow them seamlessly.
In addition to supporting natural workflows, VDI significantly decreases desktop login times, especially when coupled with Single Sign-On (SSO). This saves clinicians a considerable amount of time, allowing for a higher quality of patient care and eliminating extended boot-up/login times when clinicians move to new stations. As Section 3 below will reiterate, this time savings adds up and results in a considerable return to the organization.
2. Simplified Management
As desktop computing environments grow in size, management can become a nightmare, leeching critical time away from support staff due to an abundance of menial support tickets, and endless manual upgrades.
VDI provides powerful centralized tools to proactively manage desktop computing. Time-intensive tasks such as software patching is automated and managed centrally. Since virtual desktops are created using a standardized “golden image”, patching can be performed once, tested, and rolled out to all users with a click of a button.
Anti-Virus is also simplified. Instead of installing and maintaining anti-virus clients on each end device, a dedicated management server can be used to continuously monitor all desktop sessions simultaneously, relieving precious computing resources for end-users and improving desktop performance (not to mention security).
Since desktop sessions and user data are stored centrally in the data center, new, cheaper, end-device hardware options become available, including thin and zero clients. These stripped down devices provide bare-bones connectivity to the virtual desktop. This drastically simplifies hardware replacements. If an end-device has a hardware issue or needs to be replaced, replacement is as simple as plugging in a new thin/zero client, pressing the power button, and naming the new device.
In past environments, we have seen help-desk ticket volumes drop by as much as 50% (post-implementation) due to improved centralized management capabilities.
3. Cost Savings
There are two avenues for long-term cost savings when implementing VDI: direct savings and indirect savings. In our experience, indirect savings are the most impactful, resulting in significant benefit to the organization.
Time and time again, we have witness substantial indirect savings when implementing VDI, especially when VDI is coupled with SSO. On average, we have seen nurses save nearly a half-hour per day, and doctors save 10 minutes per day post-implementation. These savings quickly add up. In a typical 250-bed hospital environment we have seen clients recoup over $1.7 million in indirect savings from workflow improvements on a yearly basis.
Direct savings are a little more complicated. Taking all factors into consideration, total direct savings are minimal (at best) when implementing VDI. With the use of thin or zero clients, long-term end device hardware costs are reduced by about two-thirds, and the useful life of end device hardware is nearly doubled. These savings, however, are offset by higher upfront centralized server infrastructure and licensing costs.
Though direct savings are minimal, the re-distribution of costs from end devices to centralized infrastructure results in additional operational value to the organization. As previously mentioned, new centralized infrastructure reduces the burden on desktop support staff, and provides improved centralized management functionality for engineers to more easily maintain the environment. From an operational perspective, this shifts IT focus and finances from reactive desktop support to proactive systems engineering.
Still wondering whether VDI is worth your time and money? Let us provide a VDI assessment for your organization to determine the cost to implement and the total benefit to your organization.