F5 Friday: Enabling Doctors to Make House Calls Again

Lori MacVittie Thumbnail
Lori MacVittie
Published June 03, 2016

When we think of virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) it usually conjures up images (ha! see what I did there?) of an infrastructure designed to support manageable desktop delivery to vast legions of non-technical users. Because fixing some crazy setting is far easier when it requires simply re-launching the last known good image than it is when you have to actually spend time finding the setting and changing it back. Especially when it’s done remotely.

And when we think of remote or roaming access, we think of employees on mobile devices either in the field or ensconced at home after hours, trying to get some last bit of work in before the end of the quarter.

But that’s not the only use of VDI and remote access today. In fact, reading about Kanaiwa Hospital’s use of both to extend its care to in-home patients made for a very compelling business case for these two technologies.

In a nutshell, Kanaiwa Hospital needed to help scale its medical staff while also meeting the requirements for in-home patient care services as mandated by Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare (MHLW). Those requirements should not be unfamiliar anywhere. Secure, remote access is something we’re all familiar with, regardless of vertical industry.

What Kanaiwa did was not only to use VDI as a means to collaborate within the hospital and secure patient data, but combined it with secure remote access to ensure it could extend that collaboration beyond the hospital walls into the homes of its growing in-home patient population.

The trick is to secure access and deliver VDI outside the data center. That means any solution had to be able to proxy PCoIP (PC-over-IP) traffic so the VMware View images could be transmitted to remote locations. Simple credentials (ID/password) wasn’t enough, either. We’ve all seen enough news of breaches caused by stolen credentials in the past couple of years, and this is patient data we’re talking about. If even a single set of credentials were compromised, the entire infrastructure would be put at risk. So they chose to use client certificates as well, which makes fraudulent access difficult even if you have stolen credentials because the end-device must also have an appropriate client certificate.

But technological capability wasn’t the only thing on the minds of implementers at Kanaiwa Hospital. Operational costs of licensing remote access can be a limiting factor for many implementations. Kanaiwa initially considered putting limitations on external access to keep within thresholds. That, in turn, could have been a factor in the hospital’s ability to provide for in-home patient care, as it would limit the number of medical staff that could access critical patient data from the outside. The wrong choice of licensing models could effectively hinder the hospital’s ability to scale its in-home care to meet the needs of its growing patient population. By choosing F5, Kanaiwa could eliminate such restrictions and ensure its business was not limited by licensing. F5’s simultaneous user model allows for any number of medical staff to use the system as long as the number of users remains within pre-defined thresholds, giving the business the flexibility it needed to expand in-home patient care to meet the needs of its patient population.

Kanaiwa Hospital’s implementation is an excellent example of solving modern challenges not just with technology but with business models, too. Today’s environments require just as much attention to the technical details as it does the operational and business needs that drive the adoption of technology.

For more details on Kanaiwa Hospital and its implementation, check out their story on our Case Study site.