Many EMR (Electronic Medical Records) platforms used by the healthcare industry are often described as a Hub and Spoke model. Where patients and medical staff interact with countless smaller software packages and then feed data back into the centralized management platform. Patient management, Scheduling, Clinical oversight, are just some of the areas of focus within the main EMR platforms. From an IT perspective, this can become a daunting proposition, considering you must install and maintain each of the individual software packages including the centralized management platform.
VDI has evolved into a solid use case for EMR platforms within the healthcare industry based on reduced deployment overhead, and the ability to provide a repeatable process for both IT and the end users. This did not really alleviate the true challenge, considering the administrator still must install a software client or additional software inside of the parent VM or user desktop.
Application Virtualization seemed like a plausible solution at first, but was ultimately met with some significant challenges. Platforms like AppV and ThinApp were poised to help alleviate some of the challenges, but few could have predicted how the EMR platforms would react when exposed to the application virtualization technologies.
- “The Bubble” – the ability to isolate the corresponding application from the host operating system, would end up being one of the primary detractors for EMR solutions. Challenges during the packaging process would often halt efforts at the start of projects. Essentially, the EMR platform would reject the isolated environment and fail.
- Communication – In some respects, it would come down to communication failures between the EMR software and the host operating system, across each of the various individual EMR components. Ultimately, when isolated within the Bubble, the EMR software would no longer be able to interact with the host operating system as it normally would.
The Application Layering space is attempting to evolve into a solid use case for EMR platforms by addressing both challenges above as well as a few others. FlexApp from Liquidware Labs has taken steps to provide a more compatible, less isolated application environment that can communicate as expected with the host operating system.
- Reduced packaging complexity – During the FlexApp creation process, the corresponding application installs are simply redirected to virtual disks. These FlexApp Layers can then be attached to the VDI user sessions without the need for the original install. The applications within the FlexApp layers are simply available for use as they normally would be
- Better communication – Using “Filter Drivers”, the corresponding host operating system thinks that the application within the FlexApp Layer is natively installed. This alleviates any potential communication challenges with the EMR platforms.
Additionally, FlexApp Layering has the potential to alleviate some of the management complexity for the EMR platforms. The approach varies slightly across the various VDI vendor solutions. When leveraging the Citrix platform for example, there is the potential for significant efficiency optimizations. Typically, the Citrix administrator would need to install the EMR software components natively within the environment regardless of XenApp or XenDesktop approach. If attempting to present the applications through XenApp, the administrator would need to install the EMR component directly onto the XenApp server operating system. If attempting to provide a full XenDesktop instance to users, the administrator would need to install the EMR components within the parent VM or leverage some other native install workflow.
For example, FlexApp Layering could be leveraged to drastically reduce the management complexity of the Citrix environment in a few ways. Under XenApp, the EMR FlexApp Layered components could be attached to the XenApp server at boot, after which the administrator could simply present the EMR executables within the EMR FlexApp Layers to the users as they normally would. The users would not be able to tell the difference between the native EMR install and the FlexApp EMR Layer. By eliminating the native install of the EMR components onto the XenApp server operating system, the Citrix administrator can simply focus on server maintenance by itself. Application maintenance can now be done separately, from the server maintenance routines, thus reducing the management complexity. Typically, application installs would hinder or delay timely server maintenance, causing increased server downtime. When leveraging XenDesktop, the same EMR FlexApp Layer could be attached to the individual XenDesktop instance. At which point the EMR components as a FlexApp Layer are available to the user as any other application would be within the XenDesktop session.
Enterprises leveraging healthcare EMR platforms should explore the benefits of integrating FlexApp Layering into their environment.
For more information on FlexApp or any other Liquidware Labs solutions, submit your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org