South Eastern Health & Social Care Trust accelerates remote working with VMware Partner Asystec to enhance staff and patient safety during COVID-19

South Eastern Health & Social Care Trust needed to rapidly accelerate and scale up remote working when the pandemic hit. The trust turned to VMware partner, Asystec, to help ensure different groups of users had secure access to everything they need to work from home or around the hospital. Asystec supported the implementation of VMware Horizon® on the VMware vSAN™ hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) architecture and VMware Workspace ONE®.

Clinicians and support staff need secure access to patient information and workplace applications around the clock, but hospital environments can be challenging. What’s more, South Eastern Health & Social Care Trust (SEHSCT) is dedicated to taking an integrated approach to citizen wellbeing, meaning it works closely with health and social care providers in the community to try and prevent illness before people end up in hospital.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the trust was already on a journey to mobilize staff; it had 8,000 VDI-enabled users, but only a couple of hundred concurrent remote workers. While this put the team in a strong position to scale up the initiative, the pressure was on to provide thousands of people with remote access to applications and data without impacting patient services.

Providing continuitity of care rapidly and at scale

SEHSCT is made up of six hospitals and hundreds of organizations in the community. Its team of 11,500 employees supports 345,000 citizens, and it’s one of six healthcare trusts in Northern Ireland. SEHSCT has always been an advocate of the power of technology to drive innovation in healthcare, so it’s no surprise that it’s been leading the way for remote working since 2012.

To scale and adapt services rapidly, however, it turned to trusted partner Asystec for support and guidance. There’s no room for error when it comes to healthcare, so Asystec launched extensive assessments to define user personas and a use case for each group of people.

For example, admin staff needed to be able to work from home to keep them out of harm’s way and to free up as much space as possible at hospitals. They needed access to their workplace applications, data, and the ability to make calls.

To provide seamless care and a holistic approach to wellbeing, community staff also needed access to applications and data from anywhere and the ability to collaborate across organizations to make decisions about patient outcomes faster.

Medics working in hospitals had slightly more complex needs. The trust needed to replace ‘PCs on carts’ that were shared between multiple users and wheeled around wards. Not only was this cumbersome, inefficient, and time-consuming, it also meant users had to remember multiple passwords and often forgot to log out. To save time, the next user often made notes without switching ID, leading to a lack of accountability.

“Technology can’t stand in the way of productivity,” comments Martin McPeake, Senior ICT Operations Manager, South Eastern Health & Social Care Trust. “We want clinicians to have more time to dedicate to patient care wherever they are, and the same applies to our admin teams.”

Empowering staff to work from anywhere

Asystec implemented VMware Horizon VDI on a VMware vSAN™ hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) architecture, which combined with an Imprivata ID card system made logging in and out more efficient and secure. VMware Workspace ONE is used to manage 7,000 devices, including laptops, tablets, and phones.

Today, staff use their secure log-in to remotely access applications and data from anywhere with an internet connection on any device, which is known as a ‘follow-me desktop’. This is a huge win for remote working, but a bigger win for hospital staff, who can remotely access devices on COVID-19 wards to check test results and monitor patients without having to physically be there – reducing the risks of the virus spreading.

“The benefits of VMware, from an Asystec perspective, it has that perfect balance where it offers the users the flexibility to work from anywhere, on any device, at any time,” says Lorne Chedzey, Director of Cloud and Infrastructure Solutions at Asystec. “It’s not just a great end-user computing solution platform, but it also offers a full stack including all of the underlying HCI technology.”

The new normal is here to stay

The implementation has been a big hit with users. Patrick Donnelly, a Consultant Cardiologist and Clinical Director of Research, Development and Innovation gives his perspective: “During the COVID-19 pandemic we faced one of the greatest disruptors to how we deliver healthcare. We just weren’t entirely sure how we were going to be able to continue to deliver high quality, high standard care.”

He goes on to remark that VMware has been a “game changer”, not only to ensure continuity during the pandemic, but to pioneer new ways of working that benefit staff and patients. “With Horizon, I can sit at a patient’s bedside, and in real-time I can show them the results of a test and discuss what those implications or findings are,” he comments. This is in stark contrast to the old way of working, which would have seen him waiting at his desk for a written report that he’d then discuss with a patient at their next visit.

And collaborating with the cardiology team is simple too, he explains: “Horizon has been instrumental in changing how I’m able to communicate with the extended cardiology team and my patients. I can be anywhere, in other hospitals or indeed at home, and I can have immediate access to all of the information that I require to make a sound clinical decision in managing and treating my patients.”

Now that the immediate chaos of the pandemic is behind us, the shift at SEHSCT is here to stay, with ambitions to have more virtual consultations where appropriate so patients only have to travel to a hospital when absolutely necessary. Working with Asystec, the team is evolving ‘follow-me desktop’ to ‘follow-me applications’ using Workspace ONE, which will help bring this vision to life, and the trust is part of a larger group of healthcare organizations looking to digitalize patient records with VMware.

“I see Asystec, in its pandemic response especially, as an extended part of our team,” says McPeake. “We have a small team and it would not have been possible to achieve what we have done without the help of Asystec, VMware, and the simplicity of the Horizon platform.”

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