Access Your Veterinary Practice Software From Home
Have you read our series on the benefits of cloud computing in your veterinary hospital? Software in every industry from banking to tax software to encyclopedias is now expected to be accessible in the cloud (through a browser on any Wi-Fi-connected device).
Shamefully, most veterinary software companies still don’t offer this basic service.
To be fair, some of the newer companies are fully cloud-enabled. But most of the full-featured and powerful practice management software used today are not even partially accessible in your web browser.
If you recognize that home access to patient information is convenient, efficient, and will be the norm in the future, this article is for you.
So what do you do NOW if you can’t or won’t switch to one of the newer cloud-enabled systems? We’re here to tell you that you can still access your favorite hospital software from home.
Stacy Frank, the IT head at Coral Springs Animal Hospital, has successfully connected his 35 doctor specialty, emergency, and general practice doctors with access to IDEXX Cornerstone from outside of the veterinary hospital.
How you ask? Through something called a “terminal server”.
Here’s Stacy’s take on how the terminal server increased efficiency and improved work-life balance at Coral Springs Animal Hospital. He’ll also explain why Coral Springs Animal Hospital now uses this technology within their hospital walls instead of traditional desktop computers (through a computer called thin client).
Meet the Terminal Server
In the growing age of information technology (IT), network administrators and project managers are looking for easy ways to manage from a central location and maximize software access for employees. Veterinary hospitals are no different, and setting up a Windows Terminal Server can provide both of these functionalities.
Here are the key topics to know regarding the terminal server:
Terminal Server (aka Remote Desktop Services) is the software on the central server (hard drive). This simply means that a single installation of your software is set up on a server that allows multiple users to log in from their computer remotely and gain access to the desktop of the computer running one of the Windows Server Operating systems. From here, users can run programs (think everything from Powerpoint to your favorite practice management software), save files, and securely use network resources from a remote location in much the same manner as a “traditional” computer does.
A thin client is a low-cost computer devoid of CD-ROM players, diskette drives, and expansion slots. Thin clients are essentially stateless, fanless desktop terminals that have no hard drives or “moving parts”. They are centrally managed and all software features typically found on the desktop PC, including applications, sensitive data, memory, etc., are available but stored back in the data center (aka servers). Thin clients have been the most cost-effective method to add to a growing network and are very useful for the multiple-location veterinary hospital.
Remote Desktop Connection (RDC) client, formerly Microsoft Terminal Services client, is the software on the user’s computer that allows access to the terminal server. RDC displays the desktop interface of the remote system, as if it was accessed locally like any other workstation without the user knowing they are using a server-based operating system.
Terminal servers on the Mac are slightly different. Mac users can access Remote Desktop Services after installing an application that allows access a Windows operating system. Here is one application that will work for Mac users trying to remote into a Windows based operating system. Depending on your MAC OS, you may need a different application.
Pros and Cons of Switching to Terminal Server
Single deployment of program for multiple users to access.
Single source of printer services.
Central control for IT Administrators on client workstations.
Access to terminal services from anywhere, anytime.
Increased savings through ROI.
Longer lifespan for desktop hardware through thin clients vs “thick”.
Virus protection from a single centralized location.
Increased (centralized) security control for administrators.
Not meant to be a “multimedia” outlet. Graphics may be limited for multimedia video.
Need for network expertise during setup.
How to Get Started with Terminal Server Access
There is no “simple” setup and the all-encompassing details of setting up a terminal server environment are beyond the technical expertise of most veterinary hospitals.
Because of this, terminal server access will require a system administrator for your veterinary hospital. Each setup will be different depending on how your network is set up. Contact your local computer and network servicing companies to discuss options and pricing.
Once set up, most computers with Windows or Mac can remote into a terminal server through the Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) fairly easily with some guidance from your system administrator. On a MS Windows machine, a user simply needs to access the RUN command from the Start Button and type the command “mstsc” (computer speak for Microsoft Terminal Services Client) and press enter. This will bring up a remote window allowing you to access the terminal server. Note: Your system administrator will need to establish the login settings and credentials for each user prior to this working.
In conclusion, if not solely from an ROI standpoint, efficiency and labor cost are a driving factor for implementing terminal services. Once set up properly, most systems can be managed by in-house personnel with technology experience and the support of your system administrator.
If configured properly, terminal services have many benefits in the veterinary field both from an efficiency and economic standpoint.
With computer technology continuously advancing faster than the practice management software we use, terminal servers and thin clients can be leveraged to improve the quality of life provided for and the level of care provided by your veterinary team.
About the Author
Stacy Frank is the Director of Operations/IT at Coral Springs Animal Hospital, a multi-specialty, emergency, and general practice in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. He’s been in the veterinary industry for 13 years. Stacy holds a BS degree in Zoology and is certified in DNA and serology analysis. He transferred into the IT world through his passion for technology and computer science. His hobbies are mountain biking, anything sports related, and the love of the outdoors. He’s originally from Long Island, New York and now resides in sunny south Florida. He has two teenage children, 3 bunnies, and a 1-year-old Labrador Retriever fittingly named, Chevy. Contact Stacy here.