Trustmarque is proud to lead the way on a new solution that enables healthcare workers in the UK to deliver critical patient services safely from home.

Trustmarque’s Virtual Desktops for Health has been designed in partnership with Microsoft and NHS partners in the Midlands and London to bring a speedy and sustainable solution to meet the requirements of remote working and ease the pressure on clinical teams.

Harnessing the power of Microsoft Azure, Virtual Desktops for Health gives registered healthcare professionals secure, instant access to familiar healthcare applications like EMIS, SystmONE, Adastra, AccuRx, iGPR and Docman.  Users, who include isolating or recently returned GPs, can seamlessly access full patient records to carry out appointments, issue e-prescriptions and manage referrals. They can also easily collaborate with colleagues across the clinic or practice.

The solution has been well received by practitioners who have coined it a “practice in a box” that is helping to address the ongoing need for clinical services during the Covid-19 pandemic – and beyond.

“From the first release of the Virtual Desktops for Health solution, it was clear that it would free up clinical time and that it would unlock vast additional benefits in General Practice.” Dr Murali Muniyappa

Dr Murali Muniyappa, GP in West Midlands, commented: “There has been huge frustration building in General Practice as we have been unable to meet the needs of patients during this unprecedented medical emergency. Trustmarque recognised this frustration and genuinely listened to the needs of clinicians – we urgently needed a product that allows us to have meaningful and safe conversations with patients.

“From the first release of the Virtual Desktops for Health solution, it was clear that it would free up clinical time and that it would unlock vast additional benefits in General Practice. Most importantly, it has allowed GPs to focus more time on patient care and we can see how this product will force us to think very differently about how, when and where we provide care to patients in the future.”

How Trustmarque’s Virtual Desktops for Health empowers GPs to work remotely

The virtual desktop solution can be launched anywhere and from any Smart device, including laptops, Macs, Notebooks and smartphones – providing there is a secure WiFi or 4G connection. Users simply download and launch an application hosted in Windows 10 Virtual Desktop. Access to clinical applications is then authenticated via physical or Isosec virtual smartcards.

It is a particularly safe option for colleagues who are vulnerable, self-isolating or recently returned to work, reducing the need for contact and PPE. It has been designed to provide primary care professionals with easy, secure and flexible access to work across practices and other primary care services including NHS111, Out of Hours and Urgent Care.

A collaborative approach – introducing the project team and current users

The initial project team includes colleagues from Trustmarque, Microsoft, a select group of GPs in Nottingham, and Ciaron Hoye, Programme Director for the East Midlands Local Health and Care Record. Together, they have been working on the solution development and roll-out to early adopters.

Over 500 clinical users have actively used the system to date in practices across Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, East England and London. However, it is hoped this will be extended to other GPs and users in the near future.

James Butler, Chief Technology Officer at Trustmarque, commented on the collaborative success of the project: “I could not be prouder of what the team has accomplished in a short time.  There have been many remote access and VDI solutions already deployed in the NHS. However, they have largely been traditional ones – requiring corporate devices for safe VPN access and expensive hardware purchases for traditional VDI, and sufficient network bandwidth for the remote connectivity.  Both reduce the flexibility to respond to the unexpected and present rapid change.

“A public cloud-based VDI model resolves those drawbacks and we have proved not only that it works, but that it is possible to deploy in weeks not months.  However, the urgency of the project has dictated the speed of the deployment – this is not a normal scenario.”

Laying the foundations to accelerate digital transformation in the NHS

The solution comes as a new report on Digital Transformation in the NHS by the National Audit Office (NAO) reveals that transformation has been poorly adopted, with previous major national programmes being closed early without achieving the desired objectives. However, it states that transformation is a critical tactic which must remain a priority focus for the Department of Health & Social Care and its arm’s-length bodies.

While designed as a rapid response to the Covid-19 challenges, Trustmarque’s Virtual Desktops for Health is not a temporary solution and instead aims to bring lasting benefits and efficiencies, including up to 30% saving over a standard infrastructure lifecycle.

James Butler said that while the NHS has in the past faced challenges in the widespread adoption of VDI (virtual desktop infrastructure) and similar initiatives, as highlighted in the NAO report, he hopes this project will act to “accelerate technology transformation” moving forward.

“The NHS has been wary of public cloud adoption…I hope this demonstrates the benefits it can offer as part of a broader hybrid architecture and that the NHS can accelerate its technology transformation, which is long overdue.” James Butler

He commented: “The NHS-specific challenges of applications and HSCN connectivity have not been materially different than the challenges seen in organisations from other sectors such as financial services that have previously adopted VDI.  For over a decade, people have been predicting every year as ‘the year of VDI’, due to its potential benefits. But in practice, building VDI solutions has been a challenging process, particularly in the health sector.”

Building in the cloud has solved many of those challenges. For example, not needing to choose the right hardware up front, identifying all use cases and needs in advance, and not needing to have hardware sitting idle ready for peak workloads.

“The NHS has been wary of public cloud adoption compared to other sectors – including when compared to central and local government,” adds James. “But I hope this demonstrates the benefits it can offer as part of a broader hybrid architecture and that the NHS can accelerate its technology transformation, which is long overdue.”

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By Katherine Murphy, content enthusiast