Group Health Centre

Group Health Centre: Unidesk, Imprivata and Tegile Enable Desktop Transformation

With Unidesk, Imprivata, Tegile, and VMware, this Canadian ambulatory care organization is easing Epic EMR updates, improving IT efficiency, and enabling physicians and staff to spend more time on patient care.

Group Health Centre

"We deployed VDI from the perspective of each physician and staff user being able to do whatever they wanted to their desktop – full customization, personal settings, and even applications. Traditionally, this would come with additional IT overhead, but Unidesk enabled us to do it in an operationally sustainable manner."

Ralph Barker
VP Information Services and CIO, Group Health Centre

Desktop Transformation for Improved Patient Care

Group Health Centre is a progressive, multi-specialty, ambulatory care health organization and is one of Canada's first consumer-sponsored health care facilities built with private funds donated by local union members. As Ontario's largest and longest established alternatively funded healthcare organization, Group Health Centre serves over 60,000 Sault Ste. Marie and Algoma District residents.

To fulfill its mission of providing accessible, quality healthcare to patients through primary and specialty physicians and allied health professionals, Group Health Centre undertook a desktop transformation that included migrating from Windows XP to Windows 7, implementing Epic Electronic Health Record (EHR) software, and transitioning more than 1,000 PCs to virtual desktops.

“Our end user infrastructure was end of life, with no real evergreening plan in place,” says Ralph Barker, VP Information Services and CIO at Group Health Centre. “We reviewed the market to better understand what the delivery of ambulatory health care would look like over the next five years. Then we put in place a plan to refresh our end user and back office infrastructure with best of breed technology solutions that would support our needs. Unidesk, along with Epic, Imprivata, Tegile, and VMware, helped us achieve our goals.”

Project Goals and Technologies

Group Health Centre wanted to provide faster, more physician-friendly access to clinical care systems, while simplifying desktop and application administration for its lean IT staff. With the combination of VMware Horizon desktop virtualization software, Unidesk virtual desktop management software, HP servers and zero clients, and Tegile flash-optimized storage arrays, the organization is achieving its objectives.

Full Personalization Drives Acceptance

Like most health care organizations, Group Health Centre must manage diverse desktop configurations to meet the needs of its many departments and use cases. At the highest level, two types of desktops have been implemented:

  1. Non-persistent desktops for exam rooms are wiped clean after each use and placed back into a floating pool so that the next user always has a fresh, clean VM.
  2. Persistent desktops for physicians and administrative staff preserve all customizations, including settings, data, and plug-ins to provide a consistent, follow-me desktop experience.

Comments Ralph Barker, “We intentionally gave a mandate to our tech team not to deploy VDI in a generic, locked down desktop mode. Instead, we deployed VDI from the perspective of each physician and staff user being able to do whatever they wanted to their desktop – full customization, personal settings, and even applications. Traditionally, this would come with additional IT overhead, but Unidesk enabled us to do it in an operationally sustainable manner.”

With Unidesk layering technology, the power and flexibility of persistence doesn't come at a high storage or support cost. Unidesk provisions persistent desktops on Group Health Centre‟s VMware vSphere virtual infrastructure from a single Windows 7 OS “layer.” The layer is stored as a virtual disk (VMDK) and shared by all VMs, making the persistent desktops as storage-efficient and as easy to patch as the non-persistent desktops.

The persistent desktop strategy has paid off – 99% of all end user devices at Group Health Centre are now accessing virtual desktops.

Simple Management of Epic EHR and Other Applications

Unidesk layering technology is also used to deliver Group Health Centre's 145+ applications, including Adobe Acrobat Pro, Dragon NaturallySpeaking, Crystal Reports, Epic Hyperspace, exacqVision, Google Chrome, Imprivata OneSign, Java, Microsoft Office, Microsoft Project, Microsoft Visio, PuTTY, Sage Simply Accounting, and Skype.

Applications that are needed by departments or small groups of users are layered as individual app layers to make custom desktop configuration fast and easy. Apps like Epic Hyperspace that are needed by all users are included as part of the Windows OS layer.

Unlike traditional application virtualization tools that isolate applications in their own “sandbox” or “bubble,” every Unidesk layered app behaves as if it is locally installed. Windows and other apps are not aware that the app is a read-only, shared VMDK, merged with the Windows OS layer to create a virtual C: hard drive. Files, data, and registry settings are stored in the usual places, and can be seen by native Windows tools. Apps and plug-ins cross-communicate and share data as if they are locally installed, a critical requirement for healthcare organizations that need EMR software such as Epic to interoperate with other applications.

“For us, Unidesk was the only way to go,” says Martin Poirier, ICT Technician at Group Health Centre. “Unidesk layering gives us the flexibility to mix and match apps as needed and deliver our 'make or break' apps that we couldn't virtualize with traditional tools.”

Patching Simplicity and Compliance

With the Imageless Management made possible by Unidesk layering innovation, Group Health Centre is finding it much easier to keep Windows on its 8-week patching cycle and stay current with frequent Epic updates. Unlike traditional desktop management solutions that use an agent to install an application or Windows patch 500 times to deploy it to 500 VMs, Unidesk requires only one install. Once applications and the Windows OS are packaged as Unidesk layers, the same shared virtual disks are accessed by all VMs. As a result, Windows and application updates are now applied only once to update all of Group Health Centre’s desktops.

High Performance Storage

The combination of Tegile and Unidesk has been especially effective at providing the high performance I/O needed for VDI at an affordable price.

Tegile flash-driven storage arrays are faster than legacy arrays and less expensive than all solid-state disk-based arrays. Tegile’s on-the-fly de-duplication and compression, coupled with Unidesk’s single-instance storage of all Windows and application layers, enables up to 4X more desktops to be stored on a single Tegile array.

With Tegile’s high-performance DRAM and SSD integrated with traditional hard disks, Group Health Centre is finding desktop I/O performance to be outstanding, even on the small capacity footprint.

Expanding Provider Access

Physicians and staff appreciate that they can access their desktops from anywhere, and that remote access to applications is so much better than before.

Concludes Martin Poirier, “More users are bringing in their own devices and asking us to install the VMware Horizon View client on them. We’re happy to oblige because Unidesk, VMware, and Tegile have made life much easier for our IT staff, too. When we compare managing PCs to managing VDI with Unidesk, it’s a night and day difference.”

Deployment Details

  • Application Management
    Unidesk
  • Server
    HP
  • Storage
    Tegile
  • EUC Platform
    VMware Horizon
  • Users
    1000
  • Application Layers
    145
  • More Info
  • EMR - Epic
  • Access and Authentication - Imprivata OneSign
  • Key apps layered by Unidesk - Adobe Acrobat Pro, Dragon NaturallySpeaking, Crystal Reports, Epic Hyperspace, exacqVision, Google Chrome, Imprivata OneSign, Java, Microsoft Office, Microsoft Project, Microsoft Visio, PuTTY, Sage Simply Accounting, Skype

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