A stalwart of the Dallas, Texas health care community, Parkland Health & Hospital System has grown to be one of the largest public hospital systems in the country. Parkland is the primary teaching hospital for the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. Averaging more than 1 million patient visits annually, the hospital has more than 20 community-based clinics, a renowned burn unit, and delivers more than 10,000 babies each year – about 1 in 250 babies born in the U.S. each year is born at Parkland.

The IT staff at Parkland have a vision to bring mobile services to patients and staff alike. To serve that vision, they’ve implemented end user computing solutions to speed care and improve performance for mobile devices and virtual desktops.

A switch from Citrix drives performance and cost improvements

Parkland Health is in the final stages of switching from Citrix virtual desktops to VMware Horizon 7. Darren Clark, Technical Team Lead for EUC at Parkland Health, says that “Everything that we used from a remote application catalog from Citrix has been migrated over into a Horizon environment on an RDSH hosted app.” The hospital has 88 apps including their Epic electronic medical records system and a number of specialized medical apps, such as radiology viewing software and tools that monitor pregnant patients. The project will support about 8,000 users, including staff at 14 remote clinics. “We have some pilot user groups who are already using those apps live, in production, prior to the go live date,” Clark added. “Everything works great. We're just extending our DMZ presence so that we can make the environment highly available” before they finalize the switch to Horizon.

Clark and his team say that one of their favorite features of Horizon 7 is the Help Desk Tool. This tool makes it much easier for frontline help desk staff to see VDI session data and resolve common problems without escalating them to Horizon administrators. “VMware came in and trained us on this tool, and it will be a huge win for us. It’s so much more intuitive than Citrix,” said Clark.

For the past few months a team of end users, including physicians, has been testing access to all 88 apps through Horizon. “We have pilot groups that are using this in the field, in production, on a day to day basis. Everyone has reported better performance with no latency,” said Clark. “They can access Epic and other apps here at the hospital, from home, from anywhere they want to work.”

In addition to convenience and performance, Clark said that moving to Horizon “saved thousands and thousands of dollars on support and licensing costs. Streamlining our app access with VMware was just a sound business choice that Parkland made. Everyone that's been using it has been very satisfied. And everyone on the IT team is pretty happy with the project and what we’re doing here.”

To boost security and authentication in their end-user environment, Parkland relies on VMware partners F5 Networks and Duo Security. Parkland uses an F5 load balancer to help with the implementation of Horizon and Workspace ONE. “We're in the process of finalizing our F5 upgrade so we can leverage the JWT token [JSOM web token] for global entitlements in a multi-data center Horizon environment” to improve identity and access management, said Clark. Multifactor authentication from Duo helps implement a zero-trust security model for digital workspaces.

Innovating with mobile devices for faster care

For mobile device management – from smartphones to rugged devices – and access to RDSH apps on the go for 27,000 users, Parkland uses VMware Workspace ONE, powered by AirWatch technology. Currently, their mobile devices are mostly hospital-owned rugged Zebra MC40 mobile computers, with a few iOS devices. Parkland plans to move to a bring-your-own-device program beginning in the fall of 2018. “We’ve tested the BYOD model and it works,” said Clark. “We only need to spec out our environment for capacity planning. Once we start this program, our employees will be able to use whatever device they already own and are used to, no matter the OS.”

Parkland recently began using an Epic software module called Welcome. This lets patients check in to a hospital and update their information easily on Windows 10 kiosks, or tablets locked into kiosk mode using AirWatch Launcher. Using Workspace ONE, Clark’s team can easily load, manage and update Windows 10 and the Welcome software on tablets over the air, while keeping patient data secure and reducing input errors.

Clark explains one of the major benefits: “This is a county hospital. We get flooded with patients. We can't turn anybody away. So we get really busy. This project helps alleviate some of the time constraints, helps speed up the check-in process.”

Parkland also uses Workspace ONE-managed iPads for innovative translation assistance. When a doctor is speaking to a patient and needs a translator, they can bring up the Cisco Jabber messaging app on one of these iPads. “They can access a live video feed from a translator to the patient that's talking there with the doctor,” said Clark. “The technology makes it a much more pleasant experience. It’s easy to talk with one of these translators at the hospital without waiting around.”

Adding mobility choices for the future

Parkland Health plans to add to its mobile capabilities over the next few years. Clark notes that right now, physicians have the choice to use a tap-and-go login method with Imprivata workstations, or to carry a tablet with them. “We want to become a more mobile environment. We want all of our doctors and physicians to be 100 percent mobile if they choose to.”

“Streamlining our app access with VMware was just a sound business choice that Parkland made. Everyone that's been using it has been very satisfied. And everyone on the IT team is pretty happy with the project and what we’re doing here.” - Darren Clark, Technical Team Lead for EUC, Parkland Health