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How to make hybrid working a reality in healthcare

By Keith Ali, MD, Creative ITC



Getting flexible working solutions to work for all staff in the most demanding healthcare settings isn’t easy. Drawing on years of experience, Keith Ali, MD at Creative ITC, explains how healthcare organisations can reap the full ROI from remote working technologies.

Despite workplace restrictions easing under recent Living with COVID guidance, employees in many healthcare environments have seen little change. Many healthcare providers are still keeping vital staff in separate shifts to ensure continued service.

Productivity has been affected as staff struggle to access hospital systems from home. Providers are also being hit financially – some must pay staff in full if they are advised not to attend their workplace.

Overcoming challenges

The NHS is among many organisations with a goal to enable all staff “to work flexibly, regardless of role, grade, reason or circumstance”.

In many industries, adoption of virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) has been the solution to facilitate long-term hybrid working.

But many healthcare organisations have struggled to follow suit. Off-the-shelf VDI platforms weren’t designed for power users working with graphics-heavy medical imaging applications, leaving radiologists and other professionals effectively shackled to their workplace IT set up.

IT teams in the healthcare sector were facing mounting challenges to improve collaboration across multi-disciplinary teams long before the coronavirus pandemic.

Data privacy, security and the demands of specialist medical applications have created ever-growing demands straining on-premise IT infrastructure and resources.

So, how can IT teams in healthcare release power users from hospital workstations like other industries have?

5 reasons why VDI projects fail

Most VDI initiatives in healthcare fail due to one or more of the following factors.

  1. Lack of user buy-in

Nothing stops a VDI project faster than a substandard user experience (UX). Common causes are inadequate compute or storage resources, inability to share files, excessive latency and client device issues.

  1. One-size-fits-all assumptions

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.

  1. Flawed financials

Don’t fall for providers’ money-saving VDI promises. Before and after IT infrastructure costs often remain flat. The real return on investment (ROI) from hybrid working comes from optimised multidisciplinary teams and more agile processes.

  1. Resource availability

The challenges of dealing with legacy infrastructure, cloud deployment and app optimization frequently derail VDI projects. Be honest about your team’s skillset and examine existing infrastructure closely when choosing a deployment model.

  1. Security minefields

One of the biggest considerations in healthcare is how to deploy VDI workloads securely and compliantly. Hybrid workers’ PCs and devices are susceptible to a wide range of attacks and security issues.

IT teams need the freedom to choose which apps and workloads should reside in the cloud and on-premise.

Choosing the right VDI solution

Not all VDI platforms or providers are the same. Purpose-built VDI solutions give users tools and experiences identical to or better than they enjoy in the workplace.

In the right hands, VDI can be engineered for the most demanding of settings, including those working with graphics-heavy clinical imaging applications, as well as knowledge workers with basic IT needs.

Look for a supplier with a successful track record of designing and deploying remote working technologies in the healthcare sector. Their experience will be invaluable in unlocking full VDI potential.

Be sure to calculate total cost of ownership (TCO) over five years and choose a provider that differentiates between VDI profiles for ordinary and power users and offers scalable pricing and burst capability.

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.

Choosing a specialist managed service provider (MSP) can bring 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.

Medical-grade VDI in action

The radiology department at Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust carries out over 384,000 diagnostic scans and x-rays annually. Its award-winning VDI solution  is a good example of a healthcare organisation unlocking ROI from remote working technology.

The purpose-built VDIPOD platform from Creative ITC enables radiologists to work remotely with secure access to high quality medical imaging and healthcare systems.

Working at home feels the same as on-site, with no loss of performance or speed. Unshackled from the workplace, they enjoy superior user performance and enhanced welfare.

Creative ITC provides 24-hour technical support, 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.

In the right hands, VDI solutions can be purpose-built using best-of-breed technologies for the most demanding of healthcare users, meaning all staff can benefit from flexible working and enabling healthcare organisations to unlock the full benefits of remote and hybrid working.

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