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Posted: 3/5/2013
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EMIS Cloud Platform Gives U.K. Patients and GPs Mobile Access to Healthcare Information

EMIS Group, a leading supplier of healthcare software for general practitioners (GPs) in the United Kingdom (U.K.), wanted a more scalable and cost-effective web platform for its leading health website. Since migrating it to Windows Azure and making it accessible through Windows Phone and Windows 8, monthly visits have surged by 71 per cent to 6 million. Mobile users have increased from 22 per cent to 39 per cent of the total traffic.

Business Needs

Founded in the 1980s, EMIS supplies healthcare software and related services used by 52.2 per cent—as at 30 June 2012—of all GP surgeries in the U.K. EMIS currently has more than 39 million patient records held in its systems and operates a public-facing healthcare website.

Microsoft Gold Partner EMIS wanted to design a more scalable, intuitive, and cost-effective web platform for running its flagship health information website—www.patient.co.uk—launched in the 1990s. The website provides trusted medical information and support, plus health discussion forums and reference articles for health professionals.

With the website’s increasing popularity among the public, GPs, and other health professionals, the organisation needed to address rising demand and an ageing technology stack. From a business perspective, this was key to engaging customers and creating the link to the company’s core business—the EMIS products used by U.K. GPs.

Ben Foster, Operations Director, Patient.co.uk, EMIS Group, says: “The previous system ran on classic ASP.NET in a single server hosted environment, and any change involved reworking a significant amount of code. The site was difficult to update, with a single point of failure leading to concerns about resilience. It was also expensive and time consuming to maintain. Ensuring resilience was a major challenge to cope with sudden peaks in demand, such as when GP surgeries access the site first thing in the morning.”

Summing up the challenge, Andrew Carr, Lead Developer Architect, Patient.co.uk, EMIS Group, says: “To develop the site to its full potential, we needed a technology refresh.”

Solution

Working with Microsoft, EMIS developed a new look for the website and migrated from physical servers to a Windows Azure cloud-based environment. It is using ASP.NET MVC3—the latest Microsoft framework for building scalable, standards-based web applications using well-established design patterns. The solution includes web and worker roles, SQL Database, Blobs, content delivery network, and caching in Windows Azure.

Foster says: “Being on a physical infrastructure previously, we were quite fixed in what we could do. We started with the refresh of the website in 2011 with Windows Azure when the website already had 4 million visits a month. Moving to the Microsoft private cloud immediately gave us the scalability to handle spikes in demand. Nevertheless, it was a complex project during the first few months of hosting because of the existing code. We’re now in a stable position with regards to hosting and backups.”

This stability encouraged EMIS to extend services on the website to develop innovative mobile applications and offer visitors access to the website content for the first time through Windows Phone and Windows 8.

Benefits

With Windows Azure, EMIS has transformed its health website— www.patient.co.uk—making it more scalable and user friendly. Since migrating it to the cloud and making it accessible through mobile devices, it has experienced a 71 per cent hike in visits to its patient website, to more than 6 million a month. The refresh helps people who are regular users of social media, such as Twitter and Facebook, to access the website easily and use the services available.

Website visits jump from 3.5 million to 6 million a month. Just 12 months after migrating to the cloud using Windows Azure, the website has experienced a 71 per cent increase in visits. Foster says: “Right from the start, Windows Azure easily handled increased traffic to the site with no negative impact on speed.”

Refresh with Windows Azure helps extend site services to mobile devices. EMIS has successfully extended site services, offering innovative applications on mobile devices. Carr says: “Mobile access has risen from 22 per cent to 39 per cent of visitors, with our community responding favourably to the new innovative mobile applications.”

Windows Azure offers cost-effective alternative to physical servers. EMIS has avoided the need for an expensive upgrade of its physical servers to handle more traffic to the website. Foster says: “Windows Azure is very cost-effective and more scalable than dedicated servers.”

Cloud-based platform meets surges in demand. Foster says: “Windows Azure meets sudden surges in demand, such

as when GP surgeries use the site in the mornings. GPs are busy people with no time for downtime. With Windows Azure, there’s far greater resilience and no single point of failure or need for backup servers.”

This case study is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY.
Solution Overview



Organization Size: 1000 employees

Organization Profile

Based in Leeds, Yorkshire, EMIS Group provides healthcare software and other related services to GPs in the United Kingdom, as well as operating a popular public-facing healthcare information website.


Software and Services
  • Microsoft Azure
  • Windows 8
  • Windows Phone

Vertical Industries
Health

Country/Region
United Kingdom

Languages
English

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