Ontario hospital to test Dell

With hospitals increasingly digitizing their medical information, clinical staff have run into a problem: Easily accessing data from the many computers they use in a large facility.

One solution about to be tested in a Toronto-area hospital is secure desktop virtualization, which allows clinicians to use almost any PC in the institution.

Markham-Stouffville Hospital, a medium-sized acute care facility, will be looking at Dell Canada’s just-introduced Mobile Clinical Computing solution.  MCC is a package of desktop virtualization and secure single sign-on that has been available in the U.S. for a year. Last week Dell announced the solution, approved to work on a number of popular hospital information systems, is now available here.

It’s the latest move for Dell in the medical field, which is also an integrator for Meditech Inc., one of the biggest hospital information systems. Dell’s competitors in the health care field include Hewlett-Packard Co. and IBM.

Markham-Stouffville, a two-site facility which serves the expanding population north of Toronto. It’s growing so rapidly that it will be adding 100 more beds 12 months from now. As a Meditech user, it already had a relationship with Dell – which also provides desktop and server support — says Tim Pemberton, the hospital’s director of information systems. So it turned to the server and PC manufacturer when it saw a need to meet the needs of nursing, technical and medical staff who sometimes move from department to department or floor to floor, or, sometimes, from a PC to another PC across a ward.

“We needed to have the capability of mobility and fast desktop roaming, in particular for our physician group,” he said in an interview Friday. “All of our documentation is online, so the physicians need to be able to access all of the clinical documents.”

The difficulty is clinical staff need to click on a desktop icon to launch the hospital information system, then login and off each PC they want to access. The Dell MCC solution will let staff tap their access badges on a card reader to open a desktop session, including allowing them to continue a session started on another PC.

The $80,000 project will start in April in the hospital’s emergency ward. Pemberton doesn’t want to call it a trial, because the goal is to getthe kinks out so it can be spread across the institution.

The solution for Markham-Stouffville will use VMware View for desktop virtualization and Imprivata Inc.’s OneSign single sign-on software.

“If this works as well as it looks like it will,” he added, we’ll roll it out hospital-wide, and fairly quickly because of one the next projects we have is electronic medication administration and bedside verification” – which usually means a system of bar-coding patient medication. That will need a rapid-login system, Pemberton said.

Also, the hospital now uses what Pemberton calls “fairly beefy” PCs. With the new expansion not far away, he wants to know if MCC will let him save money buying several hundred lower cost PCs or thin clients.

John Armstrong, Dell Canada’s national director for healthcare and life sciences, said MCC “allows the clinician to devote more time to the patient.”

MCC is custom built for each hospital’s IT infrastructure, he said, including common health information systems. It can use desktop virtualization software from VMware, Citrix and Zen – the choice is the customer’s, as is the choice of sign sign-on vendor.

He said MCC allows IT to better manage data security and desktop images. Multi-factor authentication options include RFID smart cards as well as facial and fingerprint biometrics.