Hamilton Health Sciences, a family of six hospitals and a cancer centre serving more than 2.3 million residents of Hamilton and central west Ontario in Canada, is using Citrix technology to increase bedside interactions between patients and doctors and accelerate decision making.

Speaking as part of a customer panel at Citrix Synergy 2013 in Los Angeles, Mark Farrow, CIO at Hamilton Heath Services, said that most of Hamilton's doctors are independent contractors, so they need to be able to access electronic patient records from their own personal devices. Because of patient privacy regulations, however, none of that data can reside on the devices themselves.

The doctors also need to be able to roam between devices, because while it may be appropriate to have a computer on wheels with a big screen at a nursing station, most physicians would prefer to use an iPad or laptop when they are at the bedside or on call from home.

“If you don't have something that can alter form factor and allow that choice, it's not going to work for them, because their needs vary depending on where they are,” said Farrow.

The organisation therefore decided to install Citrix XenDesktop and Citrix XenApp to deliver virtual desktops and virtual applications. Citrix Receiver (an integrated component of XenDesktop and XenApp) enables on-demand delivery of Windows, web and SaaS applications to any device, including PCs, Macs, Chromebooks, tablets and smartphones.

Farrow said that Receiver gives doctors the flexibility to choose and maintain their own personal devices, while ensuring that sensitive patient data remains secure and protected in the data centre. They can also get a consistent desktop experience when logging in from different devices.

“This technology is really allowing us to change from trying to run around and manage all of these locked-down devices to having mobile devices that can be very fluid and allow bedside care, whether it's in an ambulatory clinic, an outpatient unit, or even out in the field,” said Farrow.

“Now that we can be charting at the bedside, doing bedside med verification so that we know what we're giving is safe and it's going to the right patient at the right time, it is starting to fundamentally change how we're going to deliver healthcare.”

Farrow said he is now looking at Citrix XenMobile as a way of providing a broader application experience to users. Hamilton already offers access to over 60 office and medical applications as a self-service, helping IT get out of the business of managing apps on each individual endpoint.

The advantage of an app, said Farrow, is that it is single-purpose, and provides quick and easy access to information – much as we have all come to expect in the consumer world.

“E-health came about as we got into the electronic records and trying to make everything electronic. That then drove into M-health, so making it mobile because you've got to be able to access it anywhere any time,” he said.

“As I go into this next year, I think the new thing we're going to see is what I'd called A-heath, which is app health, and that is starting to create the apps that will front-end some of our legacy hospital information systems, and allow us to get to those bits of information that people need.”

Farrow also expects to adopt Citrix ShareFile enterprise cloud storage in the near future, to allow doctors to manage and update files securely and create “one source of truth” for patient data.

“I'm still not comfortable with public cloud-type offerings, and I certainly don't want my residents putting stuff up in Dropbox and things like that. This is going to give me the tools to do that,” he concluded.