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Many healthcare organizations are adopting cloud solutions. The trick is finding the right solutions from the right vendors. That’s one of the challenges the Mental Health Center of Denver faced when it started shifting to cloud solutions in 2010.
The organization has more than 900 employees spread across a wide variety of locations (and occasionally working remotely) to support while also maintaining strict security. Virtual desktops seemed like the perfect fit, but early latency and performance issues coupled with poor vendor support left them skeptical of the solution.
Here’s the story of how the Mental Health Center of Denver found the right solution and actually made desktop virtualization work within their organization.
The Mental Health Center of Denver provides mental health and support services to children, adults and families throughout the City and County of Denver, Colorado. The organization’s 35 locations include clinical, rehabilitation and residential facilities, support housing and a presence in area schools and jails. To provide such widespread support, the Mental Health Center of Denver needed a solution that allows employees to securely access their desktops from a variety of locations.
That’s even more complicated than it sounds, said Chris Walker, Director of Information Technology.
“If you look at the number of employees, we really have more than 900 locations,” Walker explained. “Staff can work from anywhere. They can work from a coffee shop while waiting for their next appointment in the community. Thinking of all the locations, having everyone in one secure system is more comfortable and easy to manage.”
Moving to the cloud helped the Mental Health Center of Denver keep up with the demand of a widespread employee footprint coupled with the need for high level security — but it wasn’t necessarily an easy solution to come by.
The Mental Health Center of Denver migrated to cloud solutions around 2010 and has long seen the promise and benefits of desktop virtualization.
“The motivation at that time was to be able to deploy cheaper endpoints like thin clients and have desktops be easier to manage and more secure,” said Wes Williams, Vice President and Chief Information Officer.
Early VDI implementations didn’t provide the needed performance, however. “Users would get kicked off all the time. There was extreme latency. People would lose work because connectivity was so shaky,” Williams recounted. “At that time, VDI was really unpopular with staff.”
After a few engagements with vendors that specialized in other virtualization solutions, the Mental Health Center of Denver decided to take a step back and re-frame how it approached its cloud needs.
“We decided to flip things on its head and focus on the virtual desktops, which are fundamental to worker productivity.”
Williams said. “That, instead of the cloud hosting, was what drove the whole business. Based on our rocky experiences with VDI we felt that was the more difficult problem that we wanted to outsource.”
The Mental Health Center of Denver was attracted to Dizzion’s desktop as a service (DaaS) solution in part because desktop virtualization is Dizzion’s main focus.
“When I look at a solution, I like the fact that it’s the main business that the company’s into rather than just some ancillary add-on that they might eliminate at any time,” Williams explained.
Better features, support and cost also helped the Mental Health Center of Denver decide on Dizzion.
The Mental Health Center of Denver has seen several positive results since engaging with Dizzion, including a 33% cost savings in desktops over previous solutions.
“We’ve really cut our cost down,” Williams said. “Before, we were paying a lot more for an inferior product.”
After deciding on persistent desktops for the entire organization, the Mental Health Center of Denver has also seen improved latency and a dramatic decrease in support desk tickets. After making the switch, the help desk’s worst week has been 26 tickets — half of what it was before (50 tickets a week) said Williams.
“We had had weeks where our median response to tickets was outside our service level agreement. After go-live with Dizzion, we haven’t had any such weeks,” he said.
Dizzion also worked with the Mental Health Center of Denver’s Electronic Health Record (EHR) provider to ensure the system worked properly on virtual desktops, something that had previously been a major pain point. Through those efforts, Dizzion was able to also reduce the number of EHR-related tickets.
“We had 4+ weeks of more than 100 EHR tickets. We’ve only had one week of more than 100 tickets since Dizzion,” Williams added.
Finding a vendor that offered the right level of support was important to the Mental Health Center of Denver, especially since they’d previously experienced disappointing vendor relationships that resulted in poorly performing solutions and slow support.
“When I look at any new solution I think, ‘We’re going to buy this once, but we’re going to deal with support forever.’ I felt like the support from Dizzion was going to be good and that’s important,” Walker said.
Though the Mental Health Center of Denver keeps strict control of their endpoints (not allowing employees to use personal devices or install unauthorized applications), desktop virtualization has still made it easier to securely deliver a consistent experience to the entire workforce across laptops, desktops and thin clients. This is an important element of the solution for Walker’s team.
“I’ve been in conversations with people in other mental health organizations who are not using virtual desktops and when I hear about their experiences and challenges it makes me all the more thankful that we are,” Walker said. “The maintenance of the endpoints is much easier.”
As the Mental Health Center of Denver continues to innovate and adopt cloud solutions, Williams said virtual desktops have proved their continued worth after the move to Dizzion.
“As more and more of our stuff is cloud-based I continue to ask the question ‘Do we need VDI,’” Williams explained. “But by allowing us to access all our info from anywhere, and still have a security parameter, that’s important. We can say all the personal health information (PHI) is inside this parameter that the VDI establishes. That’s the key driver.”
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