The employees of Angel MedFlight are well trained to stay calm in challenging circumstances. Providing intensive care units in the sky, this leading air ambulance company flies patients from one healthcare provider to another—quickly, calmly and safely.
But when the COVID-19 pandemic began to spread across the globe, Angel MedFlight faced the same types of business continuity challenges as other businesses. When U.S. governors began to issue stay-at-home orders, the company had to make sure it could keep all of its employees connected and productive, regardless of whether they were working from home or the office.
Maintaining productivity for employees has been particularly important for Angel MedFlight because it experienced an increase in flights during the pandemic. The company is one of the only air ambulance providers with portable isolation chambers to transport COVID-19 patients. “We have not slowed down at all,” says Paul Green, chief development officer at Angel MedFlight. “Now more than ever, patients across the country need safe medical flights for specialty care. An air ambulance provides a safe, sterile environment to transport the patient to the right level of care.”
Fortunately, the company’s leadership understands the importance of having business continuity plans in place—in addition to disaster recovery strategies. “Disaster recovery can help you get back to work after a sudden event, like a fire in your data centre. But business continuity is critical for keeping your business operating during an extended, challenging period, like the one we’re experiencing now,” says Green. “You have to make sure employees can continue to work so your company will still be in business when the situation resolves.”
How is the current pandemic affecting business from a technology leadership and human perspective? Listen to the CIO Exchange podcast with Angel MedFlight Chief Development Officer Paul Green and VMware CIO and Chief Digital Transformation Officer Bask Iyer.
Angel MedFlight began bolstering its business continuity plans in 2019 with VMware technology. Working with VMware was a clear decision given the success Angel MedFlight had experienced with VMware solutions in the past. Implementing VMware infrastructure solutions to support the company’s multi-cloud strategy had enabled the Angel MedFlight IT group to spend more time innovating and less time managing existing systems.
One result of that increased focus on innovation was a new medical record charting application. Developed entirely in house, the tablet app connects to Salesforce and Amazon Web Services and securely transmits patient data from airborne flights to the company’s data centre in real time. With up-to-the-second information at their fingertips, staff and clinicians can better coordinate patient care before, during and after a patient transfer.
When it was time to strengthen business continuity, the Angel MedFlight team selected VMware Workspace ONE digital workspaces. Workspace ONE provides employees with simple, secure access to key applications, regardless of where those employees are located. “For all of our employees who are working from home right now, you would never know that they aren’t sitting in the office,” says Green.
The Workspace ONE deployment also helps the company support legacy aviation applications without worrying about compatibility with the latest operating systems. “We run older aviation-based applications on virtual servers we built using VMware technology,” says Green. “We can avoid installing those applications on individual workstations, and employees can connect to the applications easily—they don’t even have to think about how they’re connecting.”
Angel MedFlight completed a desktop deployment of Workspace ONE for all 95 of the company’s employees—including both remote and office-based employees. The IT group then installed the digital workspace solution for the tablets used by flight crew members. “We had begun deploying Workspace ONE on iPads, but the project was interrupted by the pandemic,” says Green. “Fortunately, we were able to finish the deployment fairly easily with just a few instructions to users. We can deploy Workspace ONE on an iPad in about 15 minutes.”
Some employees will also use Workspace ONE on their smartphones. “Users can securely access company email from their personal devices, and if they leave the company at some point, we can remotely delete those accounts,” says Green.
Adoption of Workspace ONE has helped dramatically simplify IT management tasks while accelerating support. “In the past, managing and supporting workstations was a nightmare,” says Green. “With Workspace ONE, we can help employees immediately. We can take control of a workstation remotely if necessary and resolve issues without a complicated process.”
Streamlined management enables IT staff to stay focused on other tasks. “We’re trying to take the burden off of IT administrators—they have enough to do,” says Green. “Workspace ONE helps us completely change the way IT works in the office. And ultimately that makes it easier for the flight crews who are caring for patients.”
While Angel MedFlight was largely prepared for the current situation, Green believes that other organisations could see the gaps in their business continuity and disaster recovery plans. In particular, many will struggle with the continuously changing nature of challenges. “Businesses will make mistakes,” says Green. “The question is: How do you recover from those mistakes?”
According to Green, the situation in which we all find ourselves could help organisations develop a greater appreciation for the value of technology. It should also spur investments in business continuity solutions and—more generally—technology solutions that help employees do their jobs. As Green says, “If this hasn’t changed people’s perspective on how important IT is in their organisation, I don’t know what would.” ▪