Health-sciences center bridges healthcare and education needs with Citrix

Every organization with remote users needs to maintain secure delivery of data across networks outside the data center to ensure regulatory compliance.

Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC) El Paso is the only school of medicine in South Texas and the only health-sciences center on the border of the United States and Mexico. TTUHSC El Paso is the area’s main healthcare provider, and it has cared for underserved, low-income communities and patients for more than 40 years. As one of four universities in the Texas Tech University System, the university has to manage IT needs for healthcare professionals and medical, nursing, and biomedical student populations.

The TTUHSC El Paso IT team faced the challenge of providing healthcare professionals and students with reliable access to information. At the same time, it had to securely manage protected health information (PHI) and personally identifiable information (PII) in a manner compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

TTUHSC El Paso faced a variety of technical challenges—doubled by serving two distinct user groups. Healthcare professionals needed access to electronic medical records (EMRs), imaging systems for X-rays, magnetic-resonance-imaging (MRI) systems, and computerized-tomography (CT) scans, in addition to the virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) used in clinics and exam rooms. Their students needed access to shared educational tools, which required enforceable policies be put in place to support mobility and enable students to use their own devices instead of school-supplied laptops.

The university was also transitioning from Blackboard to cloud-based Canvas for its online-medical-school learning materials. It was also evaluating new EMR solution options.

They chose Citrix ADC to ensure that users get consistent, high-quality access to the data and apps they need, regardless of location and device, and without having to overprovision resources. NetScaler also helps the university remain HIPAA compliant, more secure, and agile.

Before moving to Citrix ADC, TTUHSC El Paso was using a load balancing solution that could not provide multi-tenancy. It sometimes failed to correctly authenticate users when they logged in, and users were unable to access the right applications. At the same time, the university was using Citrix Virtual Apps to run an EMR application for 800 users and Citrix Virtual Desktops to provide 185 virtual clinical desktops in exam rooms. The IT staff was also looking for an improved Secure Sockets Layer (SSL)–enabled solution for its VPN.

According to Jorge Caballero, TTUHSC El Paso Director of Infrastructure Technology, the IT team looked into using Citrix ADC specifically because of its "capability for redundancy and integration with the current virtualization platform—Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops—and for providing access for our users all the way to the endpoint."

Today, TTUHSC El Paso uses the Citrix ADC SDX multi-tenant appliance to load balance apps for high availability. "The platform provides us with a robust, high-availability infrastructure; we can feel safe when one instance fails because we know the other one will take over," says Caballero.

The university reduces its server load by offloading a variety of functions to a Citrix ADC appliance. With Citrix ADC, they can create redundant virtualized instances to prevent user downtime. Multi-tenancy means the IT team can create virtualized instances for testing development scenarios without impacting the applications in use in the production environment—all on the same box.

"Citrix helps us reduce infrastructure and operating costs; at the same time, we reduce total cost of ownership and increase our IT and business agility with an overall improvement in user productivity and customer satisfaction," says Francisco Rivera, Enterprise Network Engineer at TTUHSC El Paso.

To address users’ connectivity issues, TTUHSC El Paso now relies on Citrix ADC to provide 100-percent uptime. Citrix ADC makes it easy for the TTUHSC El Paso IT team to ensure the redundancy and reliability needed for both on-site and mobile users. Because Citrix ADC delivers up to five times the performance of other ADC solutions, not only are users connected, they are connected at top speed.

Delivering a better user experience and increased productivity and agility

The new solution at TTUHSC El Paso has delivered both a better user experience and reduced the number of tickets coming into the support queue. With the Citrix ADC solution, the IT team runs tests and stands up new instances without affecting production. All of this is accomplished on a single appliance. Database administrators can quickly set up new instances for testing or development on their own. The IT team sees better caching and compression with the Citrix ADC appliance’s processors than with its previous solution, and it enjoys greater control over how resources are shared and delivered.
Accessing an easy-to-manage solution

NetScaler’s management console is user friendly and enables the TTUHSC El Paso IT team to create a template instance, which the team can replicate as needed. The TTUHSC El Paso IT team manages both of its Citrix ADC appliances from the central dashboard. "There’s no way to lose yourself if you have a basic background with Citrix ADC," says Caballero. "Citrix allows us to provide our users with a highly available, flexible, and secure environment in a very efficient way."
Enabling critical security and compliance

The healthcare industry is highly regulated. Citrix ADC appliances support the latest encryption technologies and aid IT professionals in enforcing key compliance mandates, such as HIPAA. The TTUHSC El Paso IT team can easily use SSL offloading to control the encryption and decryption of traffic by moving all the processing off the server and onto its Citrix ADC appliance. Citrix ADC maintains secure delivery of data across networks outside the data center to ensure regulatory compliance.

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Citrix ADC enables us to securely deliver virtual applications and desktops, while being cost-efficient, easy-to-manage, highly available, and providing a better user experience.
- Iskra Jacobo

Enterprise System Analyst



Key Benefits 

  • Citrix ADC delivers high availability to virtual apps by load balancing apps with Citrix NetScaler
  • Citrix Virtual Apps runs an EMR application for 800 users
  • Citrix Virtual Desktops provides 185 virtual clinical desktops in exam roomsCost of application management cut by up to 50 percent

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