Ever thought of having an IT access strategy for your trust?  Citrix thinks you should. E-Health Insider went along to the company’s iForum in Edinburgh to find out why.


Mark Templeton, president and CEO of access infrastructure solutions specialists, Citrix, feels there is good reason to be interested in healthcare.  Very interested, in fact.

“It’s a hotspot. The fact is that in the health care industry there hasn’t been a tremendous amount of discipline in IT. It has the grandest mix of applications you could find anywhere," he tells E-Health Insider.

He adds: “I don’t know of another type of organisation that has a more diverse set of users and less control over the end points."

All of which is meat and drink to a corporation that specialises in offering “secure, easy and instant access to enterprise applications and information from anywhere, at anytime, using any device, over any connection."

Templeton was speaking last week at the Citrix iForum in Edinburgh which attracted 1600 delegates, mostly from northern Europe, and from all sectors including health. E-Health Insider was a media sponsor for the event. 

It’s easy to see how the corporation’s offering fits with the dispersed nature of healthcare provision and the history of fragmented development in healthcare IT.  Templeton points out that Kaiser Permanente, the US’s largest non-profit health plan whose strategies are much studied and admired in UK government circles, is the largest consumer of Citrix licences.

As Lewis Gee, managing director for the UK, Ireland and South Africa, observes there is a high degree of mobility amongst healthcare staff whether they are visiting patients and clients in their homes, working in the ambulance service or within the hospital campus. The lack of IT discipline alluded to by Templeton means that staff may be using a wide variety of devices to access information.

Gee says that Citrix’s server-based model has enabled trusts with desktops of “various shapes and forms" to make information accessible.

He sees the National Programme for IT as a huge opportunity for the NHS. “We work with a significant proportion of the consortia that bid and we are very likely to be involved with a number of the LSPs that won. The key area is applications likely to be delivered in a Citrix environment."

One area of concern voiced by some clients, however, is the size of the budget that may be needed to connect with the new services. “If they are going to be forced down a route where they need to replace things, they are going to struggle to do that.  If we make it very difficult for them to take it [the NPfIT] up it’s not going to be as successful as it could be," says Gee.

He believes access solutions have a strong part to play on both sides – in enabling trusts to take up the new services and the national programme to roll them out.

“We take a very positive frame of mind because we want the national programme to work," he says.

Citrix’s message at the iForum was that every organisation in health or elsewhere should have an access strategy, not consider it as an afterthought.  But they would say that wouldn’t they?

Gee defends the approach.  “If you ask organisations, do you have a strategy for storing information they would say ‘yes’ or a strategy for networking."

“To start with we’ve got to get people to think about it and ask if they think it’s appropriate and a good idea.  Then we can help them understand what it is and what we are trying to provide.  From that, you can build the model."

Templeton points out that an access strategy is needed if an organisation is going to empower employees to work where and when it is most convenient; essential in organisational mergers when applications need to be delivered to the new company in the group and a key factor in complying with privacy regulations.  “Access is central to so many business initiatives," he says.

Proof positive of the effect of improved access came from Ursula O’Sullivan of the Southern Health Board, Ireland, a healthcare provider covering a huge range of services from home helps to heart surgery.  The board used a Citrix solution to cut an 8,000 waiting list for health and social care appointments down to zero.

The key to the change lay in providing the boards 3,127 home visiting nurses with real time, mobile access to records on laptops or BlackBerry devices.  This replaced a system in which the nurses spent one day a week driving to a central point to collect records and another day every week taking them back.

“They have two extra days a week to do what they were trained to do," explained O’Sullivan.