In recent years, Aomori Prefectural Central Hospital has pushed forward organizational reforms and reorganized wards, establishing treatment centers for each of four major illnesses, including cancer, heart disease, strokes, and diabetes. “In order to provide the best treatment and care for patients’ illnesses, we have a policy in which doctors and technicians from a number of departments, not just the department of treatment, come together to decide the best methods for treatment,” says Shigeaki Yoshida, Director General of the hospital.
In order to support such advanced medical services, the hospital actively engages with IT. However, a number of problems surrounding the hospital’s internal IT environment had surfaced in recent years.
First, there had been a shortage of PCs for electronic medical records. Because the PCs at nurse stations were shared, staff had to queue to use them in the evening and other busy periods. “Because of the waiting, work got held up and our operating efficiency deteriorated. Staff worked overtime, which led to an increase in personnel costs, so we had to work out a solution promptly,” explains the hospital’s Shigeaki Murakami.
The second problem was the way that servers were dispersed. Because each individual medical department had a variety of systems, servers were scattered throughout the hospital. In addition to putting pressure on limited space resources, it was difficult for the Medical Information Department to ascertain the type of IT resources used within the hospital, and where they were located. “When trouble arose we would contact the Medical Information Department. However, because of the on-site nature of day-to-day operations, it would take a lot of time to determine the cause of the problem. We felt that we had to reduce waste and also make improvements to governance,” says the hospital’s Hiroki Miura.
Consequently, it was virtualization technology that caught the eye of the hospital.
The hospital consulted with the company in charge of the project, NEC, used VMware® Horizon ViewTM to construct a VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure) to virtualize its desktops, and then distributed tablets to each member of the nursing staff. As a result, it became possible to access electronic medical records at any time, without the need to wait. “Tablets have a superior cost-performance ratio over PCs, and don’t take up any space. We decided that providing a device for each staff member was the best method to increase operational efficiency at the optimum cost,” explains NEC’s Junichi Ono.
Due to improved integration rates and operating stability, the hospital decided to adopt VMware vSphere® to consolidate the servers dispersed in each department in the virtualized environment. “The Medical Information Department wanted to manage server resources centrally and migrate to a system which provided resources to each department as they were needed,” says Miura.
Although the hospital decided to migrate from a physical environment to a virtual one in this manner, a problem still remained–security.
The hospital was worried that the scope of damage that resulted from an occurrence of an incident would be wider in a virtual environment in which a single server was running a number of virtual machines than in a physical environment. Furthermore, from the perspective of safe treatment, medical institutions such as hospitals demand advanced security countermeasures.
The hospital adopted Trend Micro™ Deep Security™. In addition to the proven track record of Trent Micro as a security vendor, the fact that Deep Security is optimized for VDIs also supported the adoption.
Traditional antivirus solutions can easily cause a degradation in the performance of VDIs. If an agent is installed in each virtual PC, the processing load on servers will increase when distributing pattern files and performing virus scans. “We were worried about performance because the VDI combined tablets and wireless LANs. If response times were slow and it wasn't easy to use, the benefits of the deployment would be reduced by half,” reflects Murakami.
However, Deep Security coordinates with VMware vShield Endpoint, the security optimizer of the hospital’s VDI platform VMware vSphere, and the virtual appliance protection modules of Deep Security provide antivirus protection for each virtual PC. This controls sudden increases on server load, and maintains the appropriate responsiveness for the VDI.
"Information sharing and transparency is essential for the pursuit of quality health care services. I believe that this deployment has taken a major step towards achieving that."
Aomori Prefectural Central Hospital
Additionally, in regards to the hospital’s aim to consolidate department servers, Deep Security supported the adoption due to its compatibility with multiple types of server OS, including Windows and Linux. After evaluating these benefits, Aomori Prefectural Central Hospital decided to apply Deep Security to the entirety of its virtualized environment.
There are now 410 virtual PCs running in Aomori Prefectural Central Hospital’s VDI. “Performance has been excellent. We feel that it is even quicker than our former setup,” says Miura. In the past, information from multiple patients was collected and entered into the system, meaning that there was a risk of mixing up patient information. However, because data entry operations can now be performed at any time, the hospital expects that medical safety will also be strengthened.
The unique ways in which tablets can be used continue to expand. For example, when explaining the medical conditions of patients to them at their bedsides, tablets can display materials which enable the explanation to be easily understood. “Not only has operating efficiency improved, the deployment has also increased the quality of medical services,” explains Murakami.
The hospital is continuing to consolidate and unify the servers of each department into the virtualized environment. Specifically, almost 30 systems including pharmaceutical systems, device control systems, and meal provision systems are already running in the virtualized environment. “We want to push the consolidation forward even further, and we hope to eventually migrate core systems such as electronic medical records to the virtualized environment,” says Kenichi Takahashi, indicating his vision for the future.
Deep Security has maintained the safety of the virtualized environment and has also provided the benefits of an agentless solution.
One such example is a reduction of the time required for testing when migrating to a virtualized environment. “When migrating, you have to perform tests to ensure that the client software and each system that you had been using previously will run without problems in the virtualized environment. There is a natural risk that security products may interfere with your systems, but because Deep Security is agentless, we never had to worry about that possibility. This led to reduced testing times,” says NEC Fielding’s Hiroaki Sato.
This benefit has also proved useful for quickly isolating problems whenever trouble has arisen since starting operation of the VDI. This is because we can instantly eliminate the possibility that “it might be the security product” when we are investigating the cause of the problem. Consequently, Deep Security has contributed to stable operation of the virtualized environment, as well as providing antivirus functions.
"My ideal is for all staff to access a unified IT environment and perform duties efficiently and securely. We will promote initiatives that will achieve this ideal."
Head of the Medical Information Department,
Aomori Prefectural Central Hospital
Deployment of virtualization technologies has broadened the possible ways that Aomori Prefectural Central Hospital is able to apply IT to health care. “We wish to pursue new standards for health care by continually strengthening our IT environment,” concludes Yoshida firmly.