About Ashford and St Peter's Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Ashford and St Peter's Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is a medium-sized district general hospital working across two sites: St Peter's Hospital in Chertsey, Surrey, and Ashford Hospital in Middlesex. The largest provider of acute hospital services in Surrey, the Trust serves a population of more than 380,000 people and has 3,200 employees.
Ashford and St Peter's runs a number of major clinical systems, some of which are specific to individual functions such as radiology, while others—for example, the ward enquiry system—are used more broadly. The IT department was under pressure to deploy new and updated clinical systems within short timeframes, typically at just a few days' notice. However, resource conflicts frequently meant that new installations would cause other applications to stop working, requiring the IT team to spend significant time and effort on fixes.
The Trust was using Group Policy Objects or batch files to distribute applications, and had largely standardised its desktops, but even minor differences between the desktop images for each separate clinical environment made it vital to painstakingly test new applications and releases on each one.
Ashford and St Peter's decided to deploy an application virtualisation solution, to enable new and updated clinical applications to run in complete isolation from the installed software base on each PC.
The Trust considered three possible solutions: Altiris Managed Virtualization from Symantec, VMware ThinApp, and Application Virtualization.
"All three options were good in terms of functionality and technical capabilities, but the Novell (now a part of Micro Focus) solution was architecturally more simple, easier to use and considerably less costly than the others," said Martin D'Arcy, IT Manager at Ashford and St Peter's Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
The Trust's first project was to virtualise its Patient Centre software, which required a different Java version from its HSS CRIS radiology system and would therefore not run alongside it. The team then used Application Virtualization to package its Evolution Maternity Information System from iSoft as a standalone executable.
"To avoid conflicts, iSoft had suggested that we visit every machine to uninstall old copies of the application, then install the new version," said Steve O'Byrne, IT Analyst, at Ashford and St Peter's Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. "With 100 machines, that would have required two technicians working for two or three days solid. Instead, we used Application Virtualization to create an executable version of the new application, then deployed it remotely without making any further changes."
By avoiding the need to uninstall old versions, the solution not only saved considerable time and effort. It also minimised risk in the event of a problem with the new application, as this would simply have required the removal of a single file, rather than a manual rollback to a previous version.
Ashford and St Peter's has since used the solution to virtualise its clinisys Solutions WinPath Ward Enquiry software, its antibiotic prescriber system, and its PRISM cardiology solution. Ward Enquiry, used by clinical staff to check Pathology results has been deployed to all workstations across the Trust using ZAV. This has ensured that all users are accessing the approved version, and that updates can be rapidly deployed. The Trust will virtualise other applications as the need arises, and expects to use Application Virtualization to prepare new releases of existing virtualised applications for deployment.
Using Application Virtualization enables the IT team at Ashford and St Peter's to save time and effort in delivering new applications or new releases. This also means that clinical users get access to new functionality faster, ultimately improving the quality of patient care.
"Application Virtualization is very clear and easy to use—you can virtualise an application in the time it takes to install a copy," said O'Byrne. "With those applications we have virtualised, we no longer struggle to meet deployment deadlines, and we spend much less time visiting clinical PCs to install software or apply fixes."
By enabling applications to run in isolation, the solution eliminates conflicts and maximises availability for clinical users. It also enables a greater level of standardisation across the Trust's computers, improving the user experience by ensuring that each machine has just a single copy of the latest version of each major clinical application.
The Trust can now more easily 'lock down' the clinical desktop environment, using a basic OS image with independently managed virtualised applications on top. In the past, the entire desktop image had to be rebuilt each time an application was updated.
"Application Virtualization saves time and manual effort, allowing our skilled IT team to focus more on high-value tasks rather than mundane installation and testing work," said D'Arcy. "Equally, we now have a desktop that is easier to deploy and support, and that is more reliable for our clinical staff. This also means better availability for key systems, with positive consequences for patient care." "ZAV, with its ease of use, simplicity of implementation, and speed of delivery, offers an invaluable asset as part of a deployment toolkit," agreed O'Byrne and D'Arcy.