Desktop as a Service

Secure remote desktop solution addresses HIPAA requirements

Desktop as a Service strengthens performance and availability to keep health services teams engaged with clients

Lutheran Services of the Carolinas (LSC) provides both elder and family services to the people of North and South Carolina. Its elder services division offers independent living, rehabilitation, assisted living, adult day services and geriatric care management, while its family services branch delivers foster care and adoption services, residential services for adults and children at risk or with special needs, counseling and psychiatric services, and more. To provide these communities with outstanding care, LSC needs a reliable and high-performing desktop environment to access general applications and its EMR system.

  • DaaS allows LSC to scale capacity without sacrificing performance
  • Versiant’s IT expertise delivers a powerful solution to meet evolving needs
  • Robust security and high availability meet the rigors of healthcare compliance

Unreliable availability impacts health services

Lutheran Services of the Carolinas (LSC) requires a high-availability IT environment to effectively service its clients throughout North and South Carolina. The not-for-profit organization’s existing Citrix-based remote desktop environment was experiencing frequent service inconsistencies that disrupted the productivity of its staff across multiple facilities and remote locations. To minimize these issues, the organization needed to upgrade its virtual desktop environment to Windows 10. However, its existing managed services provider (MSP) utilized a multi-tenant environment which restricted this ability without upgrading its other customers as well. This deployment strategy limited LSC’s flexibility, making it more difficult to adapt its IT landscape to its evolving needs.

To overcome this barrier, Lutheran turned to Versiant, a North Carolina-based IT services provider. Given their long-standing relationship, LSC was confident Versiant had the IT expertise to devise a new, more robust remote desktop solution that enhanced resiliency, visibility and control. This was particularly important as the organization was onboarding PACE, a managed care program for older adults, and needed to scale its desktop environment to handle these additional resources.

IT expertise delivers a dynamic DaaS solution to improve resiliency and control

LSC’s existing MSP proved challenging to work with, as it was unwilling to share the technical details necessary to build the upgraded remote desktop infrastructure. This is where Versiant’s expertise proved essential. Unable to perform a technical discovery of the existing desktop architecture, Versiant conducted an extensive business needs assessment to gain a thorough understanding of LSC’s workflows, requirements and expectations for the environment.

From here, Versiant reverse engineered a tailored, stand-alone desktop-as-a-service (DaaS) solution. Utilizing a centralized server, the provider devised a desktop image for LSC’s published desktop environment and one for its electronic medical records (EMR) system.

Versiant built the environment in multiple iterations, relying on its engineering skill, aptitude and architectural capabilities to react to errors as they arose and systematically reduce issues. Versiant also needed to decipher the security around LSC’s data, with limited insight into its existing security model. With significant effort, Versiant scripted security code and applied it to the new solution, ultimately recovering the majority of the security.

This standardized environment improves visibility and control, allowing LSC to manage the environment from a single, unified location. LSC can quickly adjust the images and enact policies to regulate access and lock down data, and then seamlessly roll out these changes across the organization without any disruption to its users.

DaaS also allows LSC to enforce how data—including protected electronic medical records (EMR)—is stored and backed up to meet compliance requirements. Utilizing a pure storage array that backs up onto an efficient Rubrik system, Versiant minimized the impact on the system.

DaaS also enables LSC and the other organization to customize the desktop image with their own logos and log-in details to create a visual separation between the two entities.

Ultimately, Versiant migrated almost 3 terabytes of data—approximately 1.7 million files—from LSC’s previous solution to its new DaaS solution providing a consistent and accessible environment.

Highly flexible environment scales to improve desktop performance and availability

LSC’s new DaaS solution has improved the efficiency, performance and reliability of its desktop environment. Its FSLogix deployment dramatically reduced login time to improve productivity and reduce user frustration. The solution also improved the speed with which LSC could run reports, further fostering employee productivity.

With DaaS, LSC’s elder services staff, which consistently works onsite, can access a consistent and highly available desktop experience via auto logins that allow multiple users to share the same endpoint device. The solution also allows LSC’s mobile child and family services teams to continue to work offsite as they visit foster homes, group homes and other remote spaces. Remotely connecting via Citrix, DaaS ensures the continued performance and rigorous security of this remote environment to meet the compliance obligations of the healthcare sector.

DaaS was also invaluable during COVID-19 as LSC’s workforce shifted to a work-from-home scenario. Again, the Citrix connection allowed the team to securely access the environment from anywhere with just an internet connection. Today, LSC has 800-1000 credentialed users and at least that many auto login users.

“One of the bigger benefits we’ve reaped this year is that we didn’t have to worry about shifting our people to working from home during the pandemic,” said Mary Glidewell, IT director for Lutheran Services of the Carolinas. “If someone was quarantined due to a COVID exposure, IT provided the appropriate access and security protocols, and they were able to log in and see the same desktop landscape they used in the office.”

The virtual desktop environment also allowed LSC to quickly pivot to address other pandemic-related changes to its workflows. Normally, state inspectors visit LSC facilities yearly to evaluate the organization for re-licensure. However, with COVID, LSC endured an infection control inspection with every outbreak, averaging a visit every couple weeks. Additionally, state surveyors were not allowed onsite to review medical records, leaving IT to quickly figure out how to provide surveyors with remote access. DaaS allowed LSC to apply the granular security controls necessary to limit surveyors’ access to only the requisite EMR system.
“Remote desktop helped us adapt. That’s one of the things that I’m proud of,” said Glidewell. “Technology-wise, we were not adversely affected by COVID because of the IT we leverage.”

DaaS also improves security on multiple fronts. By storing data on a unified server, rather than on the local laptop, LSC eliminates the risk of a lost or stolen device, and allows LSC to apply centralized policies that limit the endpoint devices or users that can access the environment. DaaS also better mediates a cyberattack, allowing LSC to quickly reboot the environment to mitigate the threat and ensure patient services are not interrupted and data is not compromised. This accessible, high-availability (HA) environment is more traceable and secure, which is critical in the healthcare space to ensure health services providers can access the electronic medical records they need when they need them.

Versiant also created a more secure printer environment. By carefully mapping printers to the appropriate sites, Versiant ensured users only have access to their local printers. This eliminated the risk of printing confidential information to the wrong printer—potentially one in another facility—to adhere to HIPAA requirements.

With DaaS, LSC can support an increasing number of users. As the organization aligned itself with PACE, DaaS allowed them to quickly scale the number of endpoints and users with the necessary controls.

LSC even achieved a cost savings with DaaS by converting its aging computers into thin clients. Today, the organization utilizes nearly 500 Citrix-enabled thin clients to access its senior services EMR, with additional thin clients used by child and family services for auto logins.

Throughout the process, Versiant served as an extension of LSC, managing the responsibilities its internal IT team lacked the time or expertise to handle, and freeing them to perform business- and client-impacting IT initiatives.
“I appreciate Versiant so much,” said Glidewell. “We can’t do what we do every day without them.”

“The technology and our practices were in place prior to the pandemic,” said Glidewell. “We did not struggle like some of the other companies. It was a smooth transition for our folks.”

Mary Glidewell, IT director

Lutheran Services of the Carolinas