I’ve been working at the intersection of healthcare and technology for years now – and I can tell you from experience that healthcare was an early and enthusiastic adopter of workspace virtualization. This had a lot to do with circumstances inherent to healthcare – such as roaming clinicians, relentless cost pressures, and user populations that are constantly in flux.
Today there are additional pressures that are accelerating the transition to workspace virtualization. Mostly, they’re of a technical nature, but already they’re having a big impact on hospitals everywhere.
The transition to Windows 10 is making workspace virtualization more attractive than ever. This is because it’s designed as a universal operating system – part of what Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella, calls the “One Windows” strategy. Laptop, phone, tablet – whatever you’re using, Windows 10 can run on it. For healthcare IT teams, who support clinicians with virtual workspaces across all of these kinds of devices, Windows 10 is supposed to make things easier.
Of course it’s a major transition for IT and the healthcare user base. So it is best to start planning early because pressure to migrate is likely to come soon – and it will likely come from the bottom up. The Microsoft strategy of giving Windows 10 away for free to consumers could very well get users hooked – and then they’ll expect the same seamless experience at work.
According to Gartner, adoption of the cloud version of Office will increase by about 28% a year to 695 million users by 2022, which will make up about 60% of all Office users. In healthcare in particular, many organizations are already making the move. This will make workspace management easier for healthcare IT shops because they won’t have to virtualize Office on their own.
But expect most hospitals to go with a hybrid approach – at least until a certain comfort level is reached. This will complicate employee onboarding and offboarding processes. And while it may not necessarily be difficult to perform these tasks, for the sake of security, it may be best to automate these processes. After all, oversights happen – and no hospital wants to continue to provide access to employees who have moved along.
In January 2016 Microsoft will end support for Internet Explorer 7 and 8, and in most cases, 9 and 10 -the preferred browser for many legacy apps. Healthcare IT shops may want to look at this as the push they need to give up on the effort to standardize on a single browser. For the most part, this effort has been an exercise in futility anyway – especially with more users shifting from device to device over the course of the day and few using the same browser consistently.
But when you’re browser-diversified, security becomes even more of a concern – and it’s harder than ever to prevent users from visiting unsecured sites and introducing malware into the environment. This is why many IT healthcare shops are moving to application-based security technologies such as whitelisting – where IT defines the file types that are allowed to be execute and blocks everything else. In formal penetration test and in real-world experience, such an approach has been shown to be highly effective.
Wearables have yet to take off in a big way with the consumer market – but in business, there is tremendous interest and solid uses cases. Many of these use cases have to do with augmented reality – which in a healthcare can help, for example, a surgeon to access critical data in a hands-free way during an operation.
As IT expands its view of the workspace to include wearables, knowing where users are and allowing, or denying, access to certain data and resources based on location and situation will become even more critical. This in turn will require context-aware technology so that such access decisions can be made and enforced automatically and on the fly.
Where RES Fits In
Many hospitals that run RES are finding that they already have what it takes to address the challenges ahead. From automated on/offboarding to whitelisting to context-awareness – and other areas as well – here at RES, we’re helping healthcare organizations make workspace virtualization a reality that works.