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The transition from paper-based applications to electronic records, coupled with the rise in mobile device use is requiring hospitals to rethink their IT strategies to enable clinicians to access protected health information (PHI) on multiple devices, seamlessly, at the point of care. Challenged by a federal mandate to use electronic health record (EHR) technology to improve accessibility, integrate disparate solutions and streamline operations – while simultaneously enhancing security and meeting Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act regulations – many hospitals have responded by making significant investments in health IT (HIT). In fact, in 2014, technology, including EHR systems, was the largest capital investment for nearly half of all US hospitals.

In the last several years, healthcare organizations have begun exploring technologies – like virtual machines (VM) – to centralize software applications, seamlessly integrate and manage data, and leverage the cloud. In particular, virtualization is becoming an attractive option for more hospitals due to recent technological advancements that have reduced storage costs and made virtual desktop design and management significantly more customizable and flexible.


The advantages of virtualization and VM lifecycle management cut right to the heart of the healthcare industry’s overarching goal of decreasing costs while improving outcomes. For example, several VMs can run on one physical server, creating efficiencies and reducing costs. Computers, applications, operating systems and networks also can be virtualized, enabling data to be accessed, retrieved and protected in a centralized server. Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) then allows clinicians and staff to remotely access these applications and systems from their mobile devices and laptops at the point of care. VM lifecycle management processes can be put in place to efficiently manage the creation, optimization, protection, management and eventual retirement of VMs within an organization, making it viable for HIT teams to better manage the inevitable and varied range of new and legacy apps and systems.


Virtualization and VM lifecycle management are essential for maximizing the value of HIT investments including EHRs, picture archiving and communication systems (PACs) and mobile apps. Furthermore, virtualization plays a critical role in enabling clinical mobility and achieving meaningful use while reducing PHI risk.


Virtualization allows healthcare organizations to manage legacy apps and systems. For example, hospitals can retain and run legacy clinical apps on modern systems. Also, when combined with cloud technology, new clinical apps can be managed on legacy systems that can’t be retired due to regulations.


On average, clinicians may access workstations for data entry more than 50 times per shift. That’s why streamlining workflow and log-ins and enabling mobile access can translate into big savings over time. Also, a survey of 600 EHR users showed that virtualization and mobile access made their EHR more useful: 58% of providers who were able to access an EHR from a mobile device reported they were very satisfied with the EHR, versus 28% of non-mobile users.