Children's hospital deploys VDI for secure workflow

Addition of single sign-on technology helps address password fatigue
By Patty Enrado
09:19 AM
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Children's Hospital of Los Angeles photo via Wikipedia

In 2011, Children's Hospital of Los Angeles invested in virtual desktop infrastructure to address the security challenges so many healthcare organizations are facing today.

Prior to this, clinicians at the 350-bed not-for-profit had been logging into desktops using shared user IDs – a risky shortcut to bypass having to type passwords for multiple different applications and desktops, according to Lauren Dunnevant, CHLA's manager of systems engineering.

"There was definitely a lack of security in the environment," said Dunnevant, who oversees the desktop, mobile device management and Citrix groups for the hospital's large IT department.

To add to clinician frustration, the previous infrastructure was not accommodating the level of mobility that clinicians were demanding.

"They had to go back and forth with different computers and that prevented them from being more mobile," she said.

So creating a more efficient workflow while also ensuring security was paramount to the pediatric hospital.

[See also: VDI as a BYOD strategy: pros and cons]

"One of our selection criteria was (clinicians) being able to be roam around and take their work with them from room to room, without losing their place (on the desktop)," Dunnevant said. The tool also needed to relieve the burden of multiple passwords.

The hospital deployed technology from Citrix, which develops server, application and desktop virtualization, networking, software-as-a-service, and cloud-computing tools, to streamline and centralize its IT infrastructure and operations.

CHLA – the premier children's hospital in California and among the top five in the nation  – also opted for single sign-on technology from Caradigm, the healthcare analytics and population health company, to complement its Citrix implementations and further the goal of increasing productivity gains.

Users need only log on once at the beginning of their shift.

"That stays with them throughout the day," said Dunnevant. "They don't have to log in again their entire shift."

But CHLA didn't stop there. The planned opening of a new building prompted the pediatric hospital to "start out fresh" – replacing its aging desktops, which at nearly 10 years old posed performance and maintenance liabilities, and "re-architecting the infrastructure from the ground up," with multiple solutions, according to Dunnevant.

The IT department conducted an extensive pilot before implementing a phased approach, rolling out one unit at a time and working one-on-one with staff within the units. The new infrastructure has been up and running for nearly a month now.

Among the many changes, the IT department coupled Citrix desktop solutions with provisioning services within the desktop environment in order to centralize management and implemented a new storage system from SAS.

"We were able to manage passwords within a centralized vault," said Dunnevant.

Creating a more efficient workflow was critical to the pediatric hospital in terms of improving security and increasing quality of care and clinician productivity and satisfaction.

"From a workflow perspective and making things more efficient, for clinical and patient care, it's done an awful lot for us," she said. With the new infrastructure in place, for example, the hospital has seen its log-in times drop from two minutes to approximately 40 seconds, according to Dunnevant.

CHLA will continue to build out its infrastructure, which includes consolidating its networking equipment and addressing load-balancing issues. "Getting clinicians more mobile than what they were previously has been a huge plus for us," she said, of the work the pediatric hospital has done. "We continue to work to improve their workflow."