"Demand for IT services in the healthcare sector has grown exponentially in the past few years, but the simple fact is that hospitals are not designed to house data centres," said Stephen Stewart.
"From day one, we know that the HP PODs will deliver scalable capacity to meet our compute requirement for the next seven to ten years."
As part of a six year healthcare transformation project launched by the NI government in 2011, regional trusts have been tasked with delivering more of its services directly into the community.
Meeting these aims will require the trust "maximising the use of technology" to improve support staff operating outside of the hospital campus, said Stewart.
"We are looking at mobile health workers, both inside our buildings and in our community. So staff are mobile within our hospital across different wards, and in a person's home or a health centre or clinic."
The trust currently provides staff with 5,500 PCs and laptops, and supports 8,200 active directory users. It also provides around 3,000 mobile phones, including 1,000 BlackBerrys, with the remainder feature phones.
However the intention is to increase the number of staff with mobile devices from 3,000 up to around 10,000 in future.
A bring your own device (BYOD) policy is considered key to supporting workforce mobility which would otherwise have been prohibitively expensive.
"We have 12,000 staff, and about 8-10,000 that will require a mobile phone to help them with their job," said Stewart. "I cant possible think about expanding our contract with O2 from 3,000 to 10,000 - it would just be phenomenally expensive."
Underpinning mobility and BYOD plans is a migration of staff systems onto VMware Horizon virtual desktops.
This will provide thousands of employees with 24/7 access to clinical systems, such as NI's electronic patient record trialled at SEHSC and currently being rolled out across the country.
Use of VDI will also keep all information inside the data centre, helping to mitigate concerns around the loss of sensitive data in the field.
The trust recently purchased 1,200 Horizon licenses, with 600 currently in use as part of a trial VDI rollout. However the plan is to increase to 5,000 licenses, in order to support 10,000 staff members working alternate shift patterns.
"Our plan of the next three or four years we want to have a fully virtualised estate," said Stewart. "By the time our new ward block opens we want to be in a position for the staff moving over to those new blocks to be fully conversant with using it before they move into the environment."
According to Stewart, demand for a BYOD strategy has increased as staff respond to the consumerisation of IT.
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