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Hosted Desktops in Healthcare: HIPAA Compliance, EMR Meaningful Use, and More

Hosted desktops can benefit healthcare organizations in the following areas: accessibility, management and maintenance, security, disaster recovery, and compliance.

Hosted desktops allow healthcare professionals to access all of their files and applications from anywhere and with any device, all from within a single solution. The accessibility of hosted desktops is especially important in the healthcare industry because doctors and nurses often need access to their files and applications from multiple locations, usually as they move between different patients in different rooms, and many healthcare organizations have multiple locations, and many of the workers at these different locations require access to the same files and applications (patient records, EMRs, financial software, medical imaging software, etc.).

In general, IT management and maintenance is easier with hosted desktops than with physical PCs. As mentioned above, hosted desktops make it easier to manage users, control their level of access, and provide them with the exact applications they need. With hosted desktops, IT administrators can provide users with access to applications without having to manually install them on the users’ devices; and user-specific hosted desktops can be generated automatically with all of the correct applications and permissions, based on the user’s group (doctor, nurse, billing administrator, etc.). Updating applications and operating systems is also easier with hosted desktops—in most cases, IT administrators just have to update the software of the base VDI templates and then sync them with all of the active hosted desktops.

Hosted desktops, as mentioned above, do not store any of their data on the end-user device, so they prevent the theft of end-user devices from resulting in data breaches. This security feature of hosted desktops is especially beneficial to healthcare organizations, since an unusually high percentage of data breaches in the healthcare industry occur as a result of device loss or theft—as much as 68 percent, according to one cloud security firm.

In addition, the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and other regulations require healthcare organizations to ensure the security and privacy of their patients’ data and to impose rigorous and well-documented controls over their IT systems and networks in general. Hosted desktops help healthcare organizations to comply with HIPAA by requiring authentication, maintaining an accurate audit trail (actions can always be tracked to specific users), and centralizing files and applications onto servers, where they can be more easily protected.

Hosted desktops also make it easier for healthcare organizations to prepare for and recover from IT disasters. For one, hosted desktops are easier to back up than physical PCs due to their centralization and the built-in data backup features of VDI solutions. In addition, healthcare professionals can continue to access their files and applications from home when renovations or incidents such as hurricanes or power outages prevent them from going into work.

Finally, hosted desktops make it easier for healthcare professionals and organizations to comply with EMR Meaningful Use requirements because they are compatible with most EMR applications and allow users to easily and quickly access them from anywhere and with any device (which will help to overcome the resistance of users that consider EMRs less convenient than paper-based records).