Taking the IT drama out of the Covid-19 crisis

Written by Citrix on 22 April 2020 in Sponsored Article
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Jon Murden, lead healthcare technologist for the UK and Ireland at Citrix, explains how the company is helping NHS trusts fast-track their remote-working capabilities in a matter of hours

I’ve spent most of the past decade helping medical professionals and their support staff get the IT systems they need to maximise the amount of time they spend helping patients and minimise the time they spend accessing applications and data.
At Citrix I’ve spent much of the past month working with NHS trusts so they can use our systems to rapidly enable remote working for clinical and administrative staff because of the Covid-19 crisis.
When I was lead architect at Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust, we introduced a new digital ecosystem that allowed staff to access the patient data they needed on devices of their choice using Citrix systems. “iDesktop”, which is based on Citrix Workspace Premium Plus – allows staff to sign on to a “follow me” clinical desktop using Tap N Go. The clinical desktop, applications and data can be accessed on tablets and smartphones, laptops and PCs in addition to NHS thin client terminals in hospitals and community facilities.
So far, Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust has had no problem – in IT terms – with Covid-19. Since the introduction of the iDesktop, their business-as-usual strategy means staff can use their own devices to access everything they need to do their jobs, so the trust’s business continuity plan for switching to remote working because of the Covid-19 crisis has not required any changes.
Citrix has been around in healthcare for a long time. If you look at electronic patient records (EPR), the bigger ones such as Cerner and Epic are delivered using Citrix. Other critical medical software such as Aria RadOnc and MedOnc are also delivered using Citrix. However, Citrix is often seen as a complex and perhaps tactical solution for delivering apps such as these. What I am seeing now is Citrix becoming a strategic platform for securely and rapidly delivering a clinical desktop along with the apps and data that staff need to be productive while returning valuable time to patient care. I am confident that with the capability of Citrix Cloud, more and more trusts will look to Citrix as an organisation-wide solution.
Three weeks ago, when the lockdown started, the calls started coming in from large NHS bodies who were in a difficult situation and needed to enable remote access both rapidly and securely.
One hospital trust in the North of England contacted us for advice on how they could enable home working for many thousands of workers. They had a Citrix deployment that they used for their EPR, but they wanted to make this solution available from home and on any device. Working with their IT team, I guided them on how to enable a Citrix Cloud solution.
We spent time on a call, and then a virtual meeting session, and we had them launching a desktop with the key clinical application that they needed to access from a home computer in less than two hours. It was just a test, but once they had proven the technology, and gone through a rather rapid testing cycle, the deployment for the entire trust started. By the beginning of April they had the first 300 clinical and administrative staff all working on this remote solution. From end-to-end that’s about a week and a half to get up and running.
A second hospital we’ve worked with recently is on the South Coast. They were in dire straits and rang us for help getting remote access for up to 3,000 clinical staff and GPs to work from home, and to provide remote clinics and access for back-office staff. It was a standing start.
We onboarded the trust’s IT admin team into our Citrix Cloud service in about an hour on a Friday afternoon; the following Monday, guided by Citrix, the trust connected up a GP test PC and a virtual desktop for use in the hospital. By early afternoon everything was working and remotely accessible with secure two-factor authentication. The team have gone on to deliver this across three more hospitals and additional GP sites using the single Citrix Cloud management platform.
I think that at least half of the nation’s hospital trusts have found themselves in something approaching the position of the two hospital trusts I’ve just described – and we’ve worked with around 20 others over the past month.
Many trusts fear the complexity and security of enabling remote working or have gone with a quick fix such as VPN and RDP. Citrix Cloud is not so difficult to set up and it doesn’t involve new on-site infrastructure. Our cloud service is a very straightforward solution to implement in a matter of hours, so you can start testing and proving the technology.
Another of our clients is a large London hospital trust that has a shortage of radiologists to look at x-rays and do diagnostic imaging. If they were able to recruit more widely and have people working remotely as a service, they could not only reduce their backlog of imaging reviews but also give patients their results faster and get them on the care pathway they need much more quickly. In addition to helping with their pre-crisis shortage of radiologists, remote working will allow the trust to send the staff they do have home to reduce their exposure to Covid-19.
Another issue for this trust is the ability of professionals to access huge 4K images securely in a way that will allow them to work from home, which we can help with. We’re also working on a pilot project with a large university that will allow its engineering and architecture students to remotely connect to very powerful machines in classrooms that are vital for them to finish their courses. But that is another story. 
Read more about Citrix's work for the NHS in its white paper, Transforming healthcare and access to electronic patient records for the NHS
Citrix will also be hosting a webinar on remote working and Use Your Own Device. An OnDemand recording will be available soon. 

Jon Murden is lead healthcare technologist for the UK and Ireland at Citrix


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