A system is only as strong as its weakest link, and for the largest healthcare IT networks, that weak link is more often than not an endpoint such as a PC or a printer.
Managing endpoints across a health IT network presents constant challenges to security, cost containment, uptime, maintenance, and support—challenges that can take a toll on network administrators.
Many of the worst security breaches start on network endpoints. Phishing emails relentlessly target healthcare workers. Watercooler attacks track employee web traffic and then spoof popular sites to trick users into loading pages with malware. Even printers can be used as the weakest access point to an otherwise secure network.
These kinds of vulnerabilities are multiplying as legacy systems go out of date. Windows 7 will sunset in January of 2020, leaving many health IT computers without security updates and patches. Other updates will also lapse, including patches that ensure access and interoperability with critical EHR applications, not to mention ensuring regulatory compliance.
These challenges add significant costs to IT budgets, including security response, additional support, and added maintenance to preserve uptime. That’s on top of capital expenditures that compel the purchase of all that endpoint equipment up front, in return for value delivered over several years of expected life.
Improving Health IT Endpoint Solutions
The good news is that solutions for these endpoint challenges are improving every day. Just as cloud solutions have dramatically streamlined the physical technology and costs to deliver population health systems, new endpoint solutions are streamlining the technologies and costs needed to connect patients and providers with meaningful applications and data.
For the past few years in particular, manufacturers and integrators have been working to improve the implementation of thin client networks. Thin clients are lightweight computers in which large hard drives and memory cards are replaced with faster network access. Instead of each computer running its own dedicated operating system and applications, each computer runs approved applications served over the web from the cloud.
Thin clients are cheaper than standard computers, they use less energy, and by running virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), they reduce security and maintenance costs. Since applications are all run from the cloud, there are fewer endpoint interoperability problems due to varying operating systems and application environments. Data is stored and protected centrally, minimizing unauthorized access, which is particularly important for nursing stations where many users access a single computer each day.
Thin clients are not a silver bullet. The dramatic drop in price from trading standard computers for thin clients comes with an added cost of cloud integration at the start. Like switching from traditional to solar energy, the benefits of Healthcare VDI accrue after the initial investment. And while the security gains are significant, threats don’t evaporate. You still need a strong cloud security plan that includes protections for VDI.
But the benefits outweigh the challenges substantially enough that leading manufacturers have focused on improving their thin client solutions over the past several years. HP, in particular, has developed purpose-built healthcare endpoints, with constant innovations based on real-world situations. HP thin clients are not only rugged and ready for daily abuse, but they’re also specially designed to withstand rigorous sanitization protocols. And to improve security for cloud integration, HP partnered with AMD to leverage their System on a Chip for security at the core.
Changing the Cost Structure of Health IT
One of the most valuable innovations recently is how endpoints are financed and serviced. As IT business models increasingly shift to services delivered by subscription, HP has adapted that model for endpoint devices like PCs and printers. With Device as a Service (DaaS), an entire network of HP endpoints can be deployed, managed and serviced as a monthly fee rather than a capital expense.
With DaaS, HP endpoints are provisioned, deployed, managed and recycled by Red8. Whenever a system goes down or reaches its end of life, our technicians simply swap out a new system. We deal with upgrades, maintenance, and repair, and recycle machines when needed. All of the costs and headaches of maintaining a fleet of your own machines for a hefty up-front investment get restructured as a predictable monthly fee with all the support and services built in.
A Winning Combination for Health IT Endpoints
Red8 and HP both are dedicated to advancing health IT computing from data center to end user. We’re committed particularly to improving security, interoperability, and usability. Whether we’re deploying a network of thin clients for nursing stations and exam rooms, or a network of telemedicine endpoints managed under DaaS, Red8 and HP are bringing the promise of end-to-end cloud integration to healthcare providers today.
Red8 has been a long-standing partner of HP and working together in the healthcare space, we strive to provide more secure, scalable and flexible health IT networks. If you’d like to learn how you can leverage our partnership to achieve your own health IT business objectives, connect with us on LinkedIn, or reach out directly to our team for a consultation at firstname.lastname@example.org.