Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) has become a popular method of accessing important business applications such as EMR, practice management, financial software, and more. Many practices use it to manage their Allscripts and Centricity Hosting. Why? Because the CPU and RAM workload of the application – where it actually “runs” as a fat client – is offloaded to the remote server while the local PC computer simply carries the load of keyboard / mouse / video connection, acting as a “dumb” terminal and a thin client.
In effect, RDP can increase the power and lifetime of your local computers by leveraging the resources of remote servers, whether your own or a service in the Cloud. We at Health1 have assisted many clients in this migration or conversion, from running “fat client” software on local PCs to a “thin client” environment using RDP. If you are using Allscripts or Centricity Hosting, Here is an overview of the process involved with this environment – contact us for more detailed information.
Remote Desktop Services is first installed and configured on the server(s) users will connect, using the Roles wizards present in Server 2012 / 2016 / 2019. Depending on the number of staff requiring the applications, you may need more than one server to carry your load, and so set up a “server farm” that uses one of several methods to balance the connections and users across multiple terminal servers. Applications are then installed and published to users.
Who will need remote logon access to these applications – all staff, or just a select group? The appropriate group of users must be permitted access within AD, and at the Terminal Server itself.
Types of Desktops
How do you want things to look to your staff? In deploying RDP you will have several options with certain advantages and disadvantages. All of these by default include a measure of encryption and security that complies with recent HIPAA mandates.
Full desktop – staff connect to the remote server and are presented with a full screen desktop complete with icons for each of the applications. We have found this a good solution for offices with numerous applications that staff will need e.g. EMR, PM, Meditech, PACS, Quickbooks, important website shortcuts, hospital Citrix gateways, etc. In effect, you can create a “one-stop shop” for remote users at the public users’ desktop. However, it can sometimes be confusing for staffers switching back and forth from local to remote desktops.
Remote App – this became available with Windows Server 2008, and we have found this to be an elegant method to publish one or two applications down to the local users PC desktop. They then access the server-side applications by clicking on an icon on their local desktop, as if it were resident locally, but what actually happens is a remote connection to server and it runs there. For more info on the details of RemoteApps, see related blog on this site.
Web Access – a third option offered by Windows Server 2008 and later, this allows secure access to applications over internet browsers from the internet when properly configured.
Once installed, you will have a number of settings to choose for your remote desktop clients over whichever method. Settings include timeouts on active sessions, idle session timeouts, disconnected session timeouts, what local resources are brought into the terminal session and available to the remote app e.g. disk drives, printers, audio, etc., and other security options like restricting users to a single session each. These should be decided to best fit your practice workflow needs, and we at Health1 can assist you with configuring what’s best for you. we have done this numerous times for our Allscripts and Centricity Hosting clients.
Finally, there are is an excellent console provided at Terminal Server desktop for administrators or practice managers to monitor who is connected, perform a “shadow” of a user session for assistance or monitoring, and perform a reset of a user session in case of a freezeup in the application and so allow user to login afresh.
Remote desktop software clients exist for a wide variety of computers – Windows, Mac, Linux, iPhones, iPads, Droids, and more. Once your staff begins accessing their critical Centricirty and Allscripts applications on their home computers or handheld phones, allowing 24/7 quick access, you are beginning to experience the power of Remote Desktop!