Asklepios Kliniken Nordhessen uses Virtual desktops in clinical practice

The Asklepios Group with headquarters in Hamburg, is the largest private operator of hospitals in Germany. With corporate association, Asklepios covers the entire range of medical services. In addition to acute care hospitals for basic, standard and specialized care, the group now has hospitals with particular specialties, rehabilitation clinics, nursing homes and health centers. Overall, the company is responsible for more than 100 facilities, 22,000 beds and 36,000 employees. With these characteristic numbers and a turnover of around 2.3 billion euros, Asklepios is the largest private hospital chain in Europe.

Asklepios Kliniken Nordhessen has gradually evolved its shared IT infrastructure in recent years to become more efficient and to take full advantage of synergies in the regional hospital cluster. With a Citrix XenDesktop solution, jobs have been fundamentally simplified. Thus, in future, all 1,200 users will work at seven locations with virtual desktops.

The company's strategy is strongly focused on innovation and quality management. Asklepios sees itself as a driving force of progress and is constantly striving to provide better solutions for patients. The services and operational organizational processes are therefore continuously developed and optimized further. For example, with the "Asklepios Future Hospital", under the leadership of Asklepios, the largest alliance emerged in health care for the development of new IT products and processes. The initiative aims to create the conditions for integrated e-health processes and thus to make the health system more efficient and sustainable. Under the slogan "OneIT" this takes place within the group of companies rather than a standardization of the applications used to facilitate communication about hospital boundaries.

Synergies through clinic-border cooperation

"An important component of corporate strategy today is the creation of regional clusters," says Mario Exnowski, regional IT director of Asklepios Kliniken Northern Hesse. "For example, the three Asklepios Kliniken in the Bad Wildungen region work very closely together with other clinics of the group of companies in Schwalmstadt, Melsungen, Homberg and Alsbach." Cooperation in the IT sector is especially close: The supply of applications began about three years ago, to supply the sites in Schwalmstadt, Melsungen and Homberg centrally from Bad Wildungen. All major applications - including hospital information systems - were shifted to a XenApp server farm in Bad Wildungen and placed above the existing Asklepios network. Distributed servers in the connected devices could be largely eliminated.

The advantages of the model appeared very quickly in everyday life: Lengthy software distribution methods were no longer necessary - instead they had only to be recorded on the servers in the data center for new applications and updates. Today the entire IT administration takes place in Bad Wildungen – providing efficient system operation and user support, from here, for all employees of the IT organization. "How flexible we have become with the new infrastructure, became particularly clear when thee rehab clinics in Alsbach integrated into our environment," says the regional head of IT. "The users on site had expected that it would result in longer outages during the transition phase – instead we could virtually change the IT overnight, smoothly to the Citrix solution."

90 percent of servers are virtualized today

From 2009, the IT-organization of the Asklepios Nordhessen clinic started to virtualize the server infrastructure in Bad Wildungen. The IT managers initially evaluated different products and finally decided on the use of Citrix XenServer as a virtualization platform. "What was especially decisive for us was that the solution is very intuitive to use and does not bring additional complexity for administrators. XenServer provides all the features we need and, with integrated provisioning, takes a lot of work in the management of the XenApp server from us," said Mario Exnowski.

In close collaboration with IT partner Rooms & Long, the virtualization strategy was planned and implemented. This migrated not only the XenApp server to virtual machines, but also numerous other workloads - from the print server to the file server cluster. Meanwhile, about 90 percent of servers in the data center of the Asklepios Nordhessen clinic are virtualized. The IT department was able to significantly streamline the infrastructure with associated hardware consolidation: The server rooms in Bad Wildungen are currently only one third occupied.

Synergies through clinic-border cooperation

"An important component of corporate strategy today is the creation of regional clusters," says Mario Exnowski, regional IT director of Asklepios Kliniken Northern Hesse. "For example, in our region, the three Asklepios Kliniken in Bad Wildungen work very closely together with other clinics of the Group of Companies in Schwalmstadt, Melsungen, Homberg and Alsbach." Especially close is the cooperation in the IT sector: The supply of applications centrally from Bad Wildungen began about three years ago at the sites in Schwalmstadt, Melsungen and Homberg. All major applications - Including Hospital Information Systems - were shifted to a XenApp server farm in Bad Wildungen and placed above the existing Asklepios network. Distributed servers in the connected devices could be largely eliminated.

The advantages of the model appeared very quickly in everyday life: Lengthy software distribution methods were no longer necessary - instead they had to be only recorded on the server in the data center for new applications and updates. The entire IT Administration now takes place in Bad Wildungen – and from here provides employees of the IT organization with efficient system operation and user support. "How flexible we have become with the new infrastructure, particularly became clear when the rehab clinic in Alsbach integrated into our environment," says the regional head of IT. "The users on site had expected that it would result in longer outages during the transition phase – instead we could virtually change the IT overnight, smoothly to the Citrix solution."

In close collaboration with IT partner Rooms & Long, the virtualization strategy was planned and implemented. This migrated not only the XenApp server to virtual machines, but also numerous other workloads - from the print server to the file server cluster. Meanwhile, about 90 percent of servers in the data center of the Asklepios Nordhessen clinic are virtualized. The IT department was able to significantly streamline the infrastructure with associated hardware consolidation: The server rooms in Bad Wildungen are currently only one third occupied.

Virtual desktops and mobile workstations

For hosting the virtual desktops Asklepios Kliniken Nordhessen uses the XenServer virtualization platform with a total of 16 physical host servers. All infrastructure components such as Provisioning Services and Desktop Delivery Controller are redundant, so that a fail-safe operation of the desktops is ensured anytime.

At the workstations of the users' existing PCs are now gradually being replaced by Wyse thin clients. Mario Exnowski stresses that the energy-saving and fan-less devices are also well suited for use in the operating room and in the mobile ward: "Recently we have taken new ward trolleys, Rubbermaid, into operation in the acute care areas in Bad Wildungen and these are also equipped with the Wyse thin clients. The mobile solution, in conjunction with XenDesktop, is significantly less prone to error than the previously used notebook solution - and also much easier for the user to use."

Development of environment and migration to Windows

Doctors and nurses especially appreciate that they can move, very quickly, from one computer one day to another the next day - and always find their personal desktop environment there, with all individual settings. In particular, doctors on call now have the opportunity to access data from home on their user's desktop, when needed. Web Access is protected by the Access Gateway component of XenDesktop and is possible with any device. Additionally, the SMS solution passcode ensures secure multi-level user authentication. "Via Access Gateway, we can now also involve external users in our infrastructure; a write service, interception of peak loads, for example," Mario Exnowski adds. "Again, XenDesktop helps to safely and efficiently make applications and desktops accessible."

In the coming months, Asklepios Kliniken Nordhessen therefore intends to expand its chosen desktop strategy. Shortly, IT jobs in Schwalmstadt and Melsungen will also be provided as virtual desktops. Simultaneously, the IT organization is preparing to migrate to Windows 7: "Especially when changing the desktop operating system, we will greatly benefit from the XenDesktop solution," says Mario Exnowski. "We can take a lot of time in advance for tests, because, for the actual changeover, we only have to change the desktop image in the data center once. In everyday life the desktop virtualization relieves us enormously - for example, the extra time we can invest in the development of the hospital information system. I can therefore no longer imagine IT operations without Citrix technology in the future."

About Citrix

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I can therefore no longer imagine IT operations without Citrix technology in the future.
- Mario Exnowski

Regional IT Director

Asklepios Kliniken Nordhessen

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