Over the past decade, Healthcare Informatics has recognized healthcare leadership teams who have gone above and beyond in their use of information technology solutions with the Innovator Awards. But those innovators could not have achieved such success without dedicated vendor partners. To that end, Healthcare Informatics announces the winners of the second annual Leading Edge Awards, honoring vendors whose combination of expertise and innovation are shaping the future of healthcare systems. One of two 2016 winners in the category of Clinical Workflow is VMware, a Palo Alto, California-based company specializing in cloud and virtualization services. Frank Nydam, VMware’s Chief Technology Officer in healthcare, talks to Healthcare Informatics about the power of virtualization to help transform care.
Healthcare Informatics: Tell me about VMware’s vision for clinician workflow in healthcare.
Frank Nydam, chief technology officer, healthcare, VMware: Our goal was to attack the easy stuff first. How do you help a healthcare system, a physician, a whole generation of caregivers change their entire world? How do you help them go from a paper-based system to a digital system? Early on, we learned that replacing a paper-based business system with some type of computer screen could be rather catastrophic at times. It’s not a simple replacement solution. Because you need to be able to take the art and science of what a provider has learned in college and medical school and apply it to a computer screen. It’s tough. So we started by speaking with clinicians and asking them about the biggest obstacles for them to provide care using a new digital workflow. The first thing they said was that it was just always so hard to get on a machine. They spent a lot of time waiting for a PC to become available, trying to remember their password for whatever hospital they were in, and just waiting for the system to come up. They were waiting for 5 minutes or more just for a screen to become usable.
So we went back to the drawing board and decided to work on making it quick and easy for physicians to get on to a digital workflow. We didn’t worry about the mobile, the tablet, or the different devices. We just wanted to make it quick and easy. So we developed a solution called Always On Point of Care that makes that clinical data available to caregivers whenever they need it, wherever they are. They can just take their badge, tap it on the machine, and be ready to go almost instantaneously. They went from taking 4-5 minutes to get ready to see a patient to 10-15 seconds. It completely transformed the way the clinician thought about how they could leverage IT in patient care.
So our vision is to use our IT prowess to provide physicians with solutions that make their life easier and let them provide patient care a lot easier.
Healthcare Informatics: How do you see the competitive marketplace moving in this clinician workflow area?
Frank Nydam: There’s a bigger context here. If you look at how the industry has moved from paper to those first platform 2 client-server applications, you see there are a lot of companies that work on those platform 2 client-server applications. But there’s a third platform: web applications. Those applications can be delivered as a software-as-a-service (SaaS) application or to your mobile phone. That requires a completely new set of tools, compliance, and, frankly, way of thinking. So we have a whole other generation of vendors that are only looking at the new.
But healthcare is an industry that’s going to have to bridge those two worlds. We have a lot of old legacy clinical data we need to bring forward. That data is on systems that are not always going to be web-enabled. But then you have new residents and physicians who come in and ask you, “How come I don’t have this new mobile application? I want that.”
So we see the clinical desktop as a hybrid. We want to be able to deliver legacy data and applications—but we also want to support new web-based, web-scale applications. That’s where we are putting a lot of our time, effort, and R&D focus. And we will take those resources to build what we’re calling the new digital clinical workspace. A workspace that brings the old and the new together at run time, on whatever type of device the clinician requires to provide quality care.
Healthcare Informatics: To what do you attribute VMware’s success?
Frank Nydam: Our main product, back in the day, was for server consolidation. Server-based systems to take an Intel-based platform—and running 50 operating systems instead of just one on it. Our customers know that we can provide a stable platform that does what it needs to do 24/7, 365 days a year.
So if I can take a platform that already exists in a hospital and, as we’ve done with servers, provide that platform with all these great features that are always on with high availability to the clinician, that is magic. We’re taking virtualization and doing going things with it. We’re taking an incredible technology that already sits in almost every hospital today and help hospitals do what they do best quicker and cheaper, with faster disaster recovery. But the real magic comes in when we can apply that technology to a caregiver so they can do their job better. That’s what motivates us. That’s our special sauce.
Healthcare Informatics: How is virtualization the special sauce?
Frank Nydam: In computer science, there’s this idea that if you can abstract the complexity away, you can do great things on the user side. Virtualization has enabled the entire industry to take a bundle of wired messes of servers and storage and present all this greatness through an abstraction called visualization. People can consume it easier. They can innovate with the systems they have quicker and easier than they could in the past.
When VMware was founded in 1998, we started off with a workstation produce and then moved into servers. Now it’s 2016, and it’s our end-user computing business that’s our billion dollar business for the company. That’s what virtualization has done. It’s abstracted a lot of the complexity so people can go and do innovative things. And in healthcare, those innovative things have included transforming the cost, quality, and delivery of patient care and goods.
Healthcare Informatics: How do you see the future—both in terms of challenges and opportunities—in the clinician workflow space?
Frank Nydam: If you look around today, most of the challenges we face are around security and privacy. This generation has something in their genes that allows them to share information more freely. The older generation would never even consider sharing some of the things our kids share on Facebook and Instagram.
This new generation shares just about anything. And IT and security, especially in healthcare, just really hasn’t been able to catch up. If you think about it, we built our systems to not share back in the day. Now we’re asking software and infrastructure manufacturers to create systems for a new generation of users who want to share information in a way that the systems were never designed to do.
So, that’s the challenge. The security and privacy side of things. But the opportunity, for us and the entire healthcare IT ecosystem, is to get beyond these silos. To really start looking and speaking with this new generation of caregivers and, most importantly, this new generation of patients. The opportunity is to marry these next generation technologies with these next generation folks. And it’s really exciting to think about where it might go in the future.