Back

In the interest of virtualizing the health sector

Everyone has their own obsession. One of these that made me famous (well, at least only in the family) is this completely puzzling ability of reducing every product purchase that may not result from countries surrounding France to a minimum. I am lucid. This unconscious hermeticism deprives us (among other things) of the incredible chance we have to be able to spend the equivalent of half a month’s minimum wage every six months to buy the must-have electronic products made in the world’s most beautiful factories. This isn’t all. This is almost a sickness when this perimeter is shrunk down to our customers. This is how trudging along in a mall on a Saturday afternoon becomes a torture session for everyone involved. The summer, and its usual trifecta of parks, slides and emergency services, does not escape this rule with the additional constraint of quick action. When the youngest sibling decides to play shells with his forearm, it can be necessary to compromise and admit the soul in pain into the hospital, where the competing product is installed. Of course, I could boast and say that this is becoming rarer and rarer. In truth, the case that is disappearing is especially that of the health institution deprived of virtualization technologies. Three main reasons seem appropriate to me to explain this generalization.

First of all, there is an impulsion with regulations and budgets undertaken by the government in this sector for several years that have provided a context that promotes the emergence of virtualization technologies in the hospital sector. Since 2007, the 2012 Hospital Plan launched by the French government has the main objectives to develop information systems in a period when virtualization was booming in companies and demonstrated gains in productivity combined with reduced operational costs. It was coherent that health would seize this. This has continued today with the regulatory framework that includes audits, where some criteria are hard to measure outside of virtualization. Thus, for example, the criteria of availability of application has become truly doable starting from the moment when these applications are centralized in a datacenter, and are no longer spread out over all or some workstations.

Controlling complexity is also an obligation of our hospitals. The core of the hospital computer system lies precisely in these applications, which by definition are complex. Business applications are heavy application that regularly evolve according to regulatory constraints and as such, require relatively frequent updates. Deploying them in a workstation environment is truly difficult. The virtualization of these applications has provided an effective solution compatible with the number of staff in the hospital sector that has stagnated even though the patients have increased. Furthermore, some applications require increasingly significant material resources and are easily pilotable in centralized infrastructures.

The business specificity of the world of health is juxtaposed perfectly with the particularities of virtualization. First, there is mobility. Healthcare staff may change workstations several times and must be able to find an application environment immediately without waiting several minutes to open a desktop or session. However, virtualization naturally manages user nomadism because sessions with application remain functional on the servers and a use only needs to sign in on the station and instantly be in the right environment. In only a few seconds. This also complies with authentication systems using badges, chip cards and even CPS cards. The authentication system is brought near to the machine, and a few seconds later, the practitioner can consult the patient’s file. Then, there is access from anywhere. More and more city doctors, from their office, can access environments or data about a hospital. Very simply, and secured, virtualization helps them to log in, including with heterogeneous equipment. Also, nowadays, Macs are often the computers used from outside by doctors. Finally, one of the strongest constraints of the hospital sector is the high availability of the computer environment. It is difficult to imagine an emergency room where the reception posts are broken down or being updated with applications during high-traffic periods. This high availability is ensured by virtualization via redundancy mechanisms on servers and by application update strategies without interruption to production.

The health sector has invested massively in the field of virtualization by finding all sorts of advantages, especially better productivity for a lower cost. It is not impossible that this is still a pioneering field in subjects that becoming strategic in the upcoming months and years: hyper-convergence and the private cloud in contexts of hospital clusters or the next revolutions of the workstation.