How SCL Health freed up physicians' time, improved security and saved almost $4 million

By redesigning IT processes with help from Citrix and close input from clinicians, the health system is driving efficiency, bolstering security and boosting morale.
By Mike Miliard
09:42 AM
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Credit: Emerus

Broomfield, Colorado-based SCL Health, a faith-based nonprofit health system that operates 13 hospitals in Colorado, Kansas and Montana, is a longtime Citrix customer, according to its CIO Dave Pecoraro.

"We use Citrix in our environment for Epic – we have Epic in all of our acute care hospitals and all of our clinics," said Pecoraro. "But a couple years ago we started a journey to create what we call a modern desktop: a skinnied-down desktop. Probably like what you would call a thin client but ultimately a zero client desktop."

[Also: Citrix building Workspace IoT for hospitals]

The virtualization project, which was rolled out by the IT team working in close collaboration with SCL Health clinicians, has led to a host of benefits, said Pecoraro.

The health system has been able to free up the time physicians spend logging into their EMRs – as much as 20 or 30 minutes per day in many cases. It's enabled easier access to data regardless of where a caregiver needs to be – offering the same desktop experience irrespective of workstation or device. Its improved its security readiness, cutting down on the use of unapproved apps. And it's saved more than $3 million in workflow efficiencies and capital avoidance.

"We've been moving progressively toward reducing the cost of the end user device in the nursing units and in the patient rooms," Pecoraro explained. Using the Citrix app store, clinical staff "can go grab the icon of the application that they're provisioned for and then they can drag and drop it onto their computer screen. When they sign on with their ID and log-on password, just their provisioned apps appear. So everyone basically has a persona on their desktop."

SCL Health physicians are also equipped with Imprivata for single-sign-on logins, he said: "They have a badge and they use it to tap and go – that has really contributed to physician and other clinician productivity. They can go from workstation to workstation, whether in a clinic or a hospital or a patient room or at the nursing unit. When they tap and go with the badge reader it brings up their individual persona on the workstation."

That benefits have extended to SCL's mobile device management program, said Pecoraro.

"Individuals throughout our organization use the MDM app from Citrix which allows them to have webmail, a secure browser and even storage of documents. With more and more people using tablets and smartphones, this has been a big application for us.

"We've coupled that with dual-factor authentication when someone is outside the organization," he added. "Then they're logging in external to our network, we have a dual factor application that is coupled with the Citrix. So if you're in a hotel or traveling and you login with your laptop or your tablet it will send you a message on your smartphone and you tap that – it gives you the dual factor authentication for allowing them to VPN into the network."

Hospital staff "like the notion that they can get the icons they need that are specific to their purpose, they can array them on the screen the way they like, and then it's logged in with their ID and password – wherever they go they get the same image," said Pecoraro.

On top of that, "physicians and clinicians aren't complaining anymore about lengthy logins," he said. "Two years ago that was a key complaint. This has gone really well. I usually measure success on number of complaints, but we don't get complaints, we get compliments more than anything."

Lengthy logins may seem like a minor inconvenience, but "it was another one of those pebbles in the shoe," said Pecoraro. Physicians "have to go into the EMR and spend a lot of time there pointing and clicking, putting in data – and anything that would be perceived as a nuisance, getting rid of it would be an opportunity and a benefit for them, whether they're in a clinic or in the hospital.

"The demands on them have gone up dramatically, with meaningful use, CPC+, the regulatory demands on their time," he added. "So anytime you can give them a fast track to some of these things, it's much appreciated."

Pecoraro's team estimated the efficiencies realized from the virtualization project have save SCL Health clinicians about 23 minutes of their day, on average, just by streamlining the login process. To some that may not seem like much, but it adds up: "They could see an extra patient, or do some of the paperwork that keeps falling on them."

And it has saved the health system in other ways too: as much as $4 million dollars, he said, in workflow efficiencies and capital avoidance, thanks to his IT team not having to secure and maintain as many expensive laptops as they once did.

Critical to the success of the initiative was getting working closely with the clinical staff and making them partners in the rollout, said Pecoraro.

"We took a one-on-one approach. We would visit with physicians and explain how the system would work. That was especially true with dual-factor authentication. We would have a table or a booth set up and if they had questions they could come by. We also had a clinical informatics staff that would go out and visit with them and help them get set up.

"That was in concert with other things," he added, "such as helping them get set up for their preference list, their medication preference profiles in Epic. We have quite a bit of interaction with them, one-on-one or in small groups, when we're rolling out a new application or function. But most of the Citrix stuff was pretty intuitive. It wasn't like we needed two hours of classroom time or anything like that. To get them set up was a five, seven minute deal and then they were off and running."

Twitter: @MikeMiliardHITN
Email the writer: mike.miliard@himssmedia.com