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Meaningful Health Care Informatics Blog

Jun 26 2011   8:50PM GMT

Top 10 reasons why hosted virtualized phones will be a must in health care



Posted by: RedaChouffani
cloud, cloud computing, mhealth, mobile health, smartphones, Virtualization

As the cloud becomes the new avenue toward achieving efficient yet secure data storage, we are continuing to see an increase in the adoption of VDI (virtual desktop infrastructure), as well as PCoIP (PC over IP).Organizations have justified the investment in this technology, and have seen prolific results. Some of the gains have been in disaster recovery and high availability, as well as server consolidation and reduced power consumption, which of course has generated some measurable operational cost savings for organizations. But as we turn and look at the incredible growth and fast adoption rate of mobile devices in all industries, including health care, one must wonder if smartphones will ever get to a point where they, too, will benefit from the virtualization concept. Well, I am a firm believer that it will, and here are some of the top 10 reasons why smartphones will one day simply be thin clients running a hosted or cloud based mobile OS.

1. Increased security: According to micro-trax.com, it is estimated that over 25% of Americans lose or damage their cell phone each year. And with the increasing use of mobile devices by physicians and care providers, having electronic records fall in the wrong hands can be one of the CIO’s worst nightmares. But what if the device is rendered useless the minute it is reported lost or stolen? Well, this is what a virtual mobile platform would help us realize, and in the process will help ensure compliance with HIPAA and other regulatory mandates.

2. Simplified management for large organizations: For many enterprise’s IT departments, deploying specific applications comes with its own challenges, despite the wide availability of some the mobile application deployment utilities. But we cannot ignore the simplicity and usefulness of having powerful tools that assist with the management of VDI through cloning and mass deployment. Having virtualized phones and management product suites will simplify the management and security of mobile devices throughout the organization.

3. Cross platform or hardware independent: For many of us, when we upgrade, replace or change mobile providers, we have to spend a lot of time migrating our data and configuring our new favorite mobile device or toy. But as we embrace a cloud-based mobile phone, setting up new phones would be a thing of the past. It will simply become a matter of identifying ourselves, and voila!

4. No data service, no problem: One downside of cloud computing is the heavy dependency on the connectivity portion, and hosted or cloud based phones would be in the same boat. If we consider how business applications are being used today and their dependency on connectivity, then we can easily accept that we are not really changing much here, since most of today’s applications rely on network connectivity.

5. Hosted data and accessible from anywhere, anytime: With virtual phone,s we can truly leverage the capability of having access to our data from tablets, PCs, and smartphones and ensure data protection in the event of device failure.

6. More control over what is being installed and deployed: Whether you are using an Apple or Android based mobile device, chances are that before long you will need a DICOM viewer for all medical imaging you are viewing, an messaging application, an HL7 parser or viewer for lab results, a dictation tool, an electronic medical record viewer, a SOAP note generator, an ePrescribing app and many other products to be able to fully maximize the use of this device. But with all the free apps available, many of us can’t resist the temptation of installing new apps and playing around with our phones, and when the user installs anything and everything they can get their hands on, this can turn into an IT manager’s worst nightmare. But within a virtual phone environment, there will be more control over what the baseline image has pre-installed for business purposes and will also allow the end user to reset their device back to “zero day”.

 7. Increased protections against viruses and malware: With the increasing threats from mobile Malware,  Lookout Mobile Security warned of a new kind of Android malware that bypassed Google’s protections and downloads itself directly to your mobile phone, and this has many security analysts warning corporate and health care mobile users to tighten their security protocol around mobile devices. And more than ever, having a virtual phone may open the door to possibly lock down the platform and increase the safe guards against malware/antivirus.

8. More choices for service providers: With the different wireless providers available in the marketplace and the different wireless technologies that each supports, it was very difficult for users to easily switch carriers. In a perfect world we would have a device that we can take with us to any US phone carrier. Well, with a virtual mobile phone in the future, this would become a reality for many. This would also be an incredible value for high availability as you can, say, drop your phone in the pool, and then turn around and get a replacement up and running in no time.

9. Early signs of such: With products such as VMware and their desktop virtualization solutions, as well as the recent Google Chrome OS, we’re seeing signs of a cloud based phone.

10. Data bandwidth continues to grow: Most mobile devices have 802.11x in order to connect to a private network, but the wireless carriers are working hard at upgrading their speeds to attract more subscribers.And with the threat of voice communications shifting to VoIP and services, such as Skype and Facetime, its clear that telecommunication groups would require new, innovative ways to keep clients signing up. Faster speeds at an affordable price would mean more clients, and that can also mean more bandwidth for virtualization.

There maybe additional signs and measurable benefits for vendors to develop and enable their mobile platforms to become cloud based. At this stage, simulators or primitive versions of virtual phone platforms are available for developers.But with time, more and more will recognize the value that a virtualized mobile platform will bring, and this will mean that hardware manufacturers will also need to make some adjustments to ensure compatibility.

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