Virtualization's The Cure For Pacific Hospital - InformationWeek

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Virtualization's The Cure For Pacific Hospital

HP saves a customer with a mix of thin clients and Citrix Systems software.

At a time when his relationship with one of his primary suppliers was at a low, Matt Winn, IT director at Pacific Hospital of Long Beach, started casting around for a way to re-equip his 150 hospital, clinic, and doctors' office end users.

His regular supplier was Hewlett-Packard, and Winn had reached the point last fall where his questions and attempts to stage meetings had been ignored so often that he "wouldn't take a call from HP," he said in an interview yesterday.

That situation turned around as a new thin-client representative inside HP, a former Neoware staffer (HP acquired Neoware, a thin-client supplier, in 2007), recognized HP was losing a valued customer and took hold of the situation. That representative, who wasn't named during an interview, helped head off competitors and lead Pacific Hospital toward a virtualized end-user approach that saved money for the hospital on several fronts: energy consumption, capital expenses, and labor costs.

Winn started evaluating alternatives last November. His users were using Windows 2000 PCs that were hopelessly outdated to run an upgraded version of the electronic medical record (EMR) application, the hospital's patient-tracking system. With quality of care at stake, along with treatment data, prescriptions, length of stay, and other crucial information that was fed straight from the EMR app into the billing system, there was no room for a misstep. By the end of November, he needed his new end-user computing approach installed within a month.

Winn looked at the cost of going to new PCs for Windows XP or Vista and opted instead for a thin-client offering from HP and Citrix Systems. Instead of buying new hardware capable of running a much larger version of Windows, Winn expanded the hospital's reliance on XenApp, the Citrix central server that virtualizes applications. He went from one to four XenApp servers, and started hosting Microsoft Office, Fuji's medical Picture Archiving and Communications System, and the EMR application, among others. In all, 40 apps have been virtualized on XenApp.

Then, in less than 30 days, he equipped his end users with HP t5730 thin clients. While slender, they still pack a presentation punch with 1 GB of RAM and another gigabyte in a solid-state drive. Winn found early resistance to the thin clients because users were used to creating and saving their own files and playing music on their former Windows PCs. Needless to say, the HP thin clients showed up without disk drives or CD players.

"Once users got over the fact they couldn’t save locally and play music, they got used to the thin clients," he said. The fact that 22-inch, space-saving flat screen monitors replaced users' 17-inch cathode ray tubes helped. Back-office workers and nurses at nursing stations could put two documents side by side on the screens, speeding up their ability to compare information.

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