Jul 07 2020

4 Ways VDI Is Critical to Scaling Up Telehealth

The right remote care solutions blend seamlessly into provider workflow and ease the burden on IT staff.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shined a spotlight on telehealth and, with it, the technology solutions that make it possible to deliver remote care. 

Whether hospitals recently expanded their telehealth services or launched initiatives in response to the pandemic, a primary goal of these efforts has been to ramp up quickly. In the first three weeks of the pandemic, for example, New York City’s public health system jumped from 500 virtual visits in the previous month to almost 57,000 — and has since provided nearly a quarter of a million.

Delivering telehealth at that scale, and doing so quickly, requires a solution such as virtual desktop infrastructure. VDI lets caregivers access the information they need to provide treatment from any device or location, simplifies IT management and maintains patient privacy. 

“VDI is vital to telemedicine and vital to positioning an organization to react in a pandemic and to not interrupt patient care,” says Lisa Hines, a strategic adviser for healthcare at NetApp

Solutions that complement, rather than complicate, providers’ day-to-day experience will fare best in terms of adoption, she adds: “Workflow is important in a telehealth implementation.” 

DISCOVER: Learn how NetApp storage solutions and cloud capabilities can deliver performance and scalability in healthcare.

1. VDI Streamlines and Supports the Provider Workflow

Telehealth sessions are more than simply a video interaction between patient and caregiver. Providers still need access to patient records and clinical data — in short, the same workflow they’d have in the hospital. 

VDI, by providing ready access to these resources in a secure, consistent environment from an authorized device, helps to facilitate a positive experience for users, no matter where they are located. 

That consistency is especially valuable in light of the varied applications that hospitals rely on to deliver telehealth, Hines notes. For instance, a hospital might have separate applications for different types of virtual care, from remote patient monitoring to pediatric visits for families sheltering in place. Unifying them under VDI can simplify the user experience.

“Telehealth is still at a point where there are a number of best-in-breed solutions, so VDI is going to put that wrapper around all of those applications and integrate it with a single sign-on and a nice, easy workflow,” she says.

2. Simplify IT Management with a Device-Agnostic Approach

Most hospitals aren’t one-device-fits-all environments, says Hines. While users may appreciate the element of choice, accommodating a plethora of devices and OSs can create headaches for IT staff. 

VDI helps to mitigate that friction. “It becomes a much more streamlined process, where IT is able to ensure business continuity because they are focused on the VDI environment and not on all those other devices and personal preferences,” says Hines. 

In fact, the VDI environment’s ease of use can yield benefits across the board. 

“Anything you can do to simplify troubleshooting often accelerates the ability to put a clinician back at the bedside with the patient, which is what healthcare is all about,” Hines says.

3. VDI Improves Privacy and Security for Virtual Visits

For telehealth to achieve its full potential, both during and after the pandemic, it is essential that patients, providers and caregivers have confidence in an institution’s ability to protect sensitive data. 

VDI provides access to the patient care systems via industry-standard encrypted communication protocols. Data in the back-end repositories is also typically encrypted by the NetApp storage infrastructure. Moreover, NetApp’s VDI solutions can use various access control and endpoint security mechanisms, such as multifactor authentication and posture checking.

“Any piece of data that is part of an interaction in a VDI session is encrypted,” says Hines.

READ MORE: Learn more about the benefits of VDI for health systems.

4. Virtual Desktops Allow Hospitals to Quickly Scale Telehealth

One of the most challenging characteristics of the pandemic has been its unpredictability, from unanticipated surges in telehealth demand to regional variability in COVID-19 cases. These changes highlight the advantages of solutions that offer elasticity with scale and demand. 

With the pandemic necessitating so many adjustments in the workplace, the ease of NetApp’s VDI deployment also makes it attractive — particularly for users and institutions that lack prior experience with VDI or telemedicine, Hines says.

“When you are all of a sudden faced with ‘I’ve never done it before, but now I have to do it,’ being able to train providers and get them comfortable — in a very short window — is highly dependent upon a consistent and reliable technology experience that also provides access to the clinical and enterprise applications they need to augment their workflows,” she says. 

From an IT perspective, VDI is easy to stand up and to scale, ensuring hospitals don’t miss a beat in serving their patients and continuing business operations. 

Rapid implementation is one reason that organizations choose NetApp, says Hines. “We have simplified deployment for faster standup of a VDI environment, whether it be on-premises, in the cloud or a ‘best of both worlds’ hybrid approach.”

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