McKesson, a leading provider of healthcare products and services, wanted to offer customers an analytics solution that could be easily implemented by organizations of any size. For more flexibility, the company decided to run its software on
the Windows Azure platform and create a single-sign-on solution based on Windows Azure Active Directory. As a result, McKesson can serve virtually all of its customers with a single platform, and its customers can benefit from healthcare analytics without
additional on-premises infrastructure.
Based in San Francisco, California, McKesson is the largest pharmaceutical distributor in North America, and a leading provider of healthcare products, services, and IT solutions.
McKesson wanted to provide a cloud-based analytics service for healthcare organizations to show compliance with the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act—specifically with the act’s “meaningful use” quality reporting
standards. Eligible hospitals and professionals that meet criteria for using electronic health records (EHR) to improve care are eligible for government incentive payments.
The healthcare industry must also meet strong regulations governing access to patient data, and McKesson wanted a secure and easy way for customers to access their applications. Although many larger healthcare organizations have their own IT departments
that implement identity management solutions, smaller organizations often lack such resources.
McKesson sought an identity federation service that could be managed entirely in the cloud or integrated with on-premises technologies such as Active Directory Domain Services.
||We’re definitely excited by all the different capabilities with Windows Azure…. Because the Microsoft cloud platform already includes tools like Windows Azure Active Directory, which is available for free, we can focus more on developing
our own applications.
| Lucas Adams
McKesson looked at multiple options before choosing Windows Azure Cloud Services, a platform-as-a-service offering from Microsoft. The company decided to deploy its solution on the Windows Azure platform with Windows Azure Active Directory. “We considered
different cloud vendors ” says Adams. “But we kept coming back to Windows Azure as the best choice for meeting our requirements.”
Using the Microsoft Visual Studio 2012 development system, McKesson and the Windows Azure Active Directory team prototyped a solution that went live in September 2013. McKesson uses the Windows Azure Active Directory Graph application programming interface
(API) through the REST API to create a single-sign-on solution with strong security for diverse, cloud-based applications. McKesson is also taking advantage of Windows Azure SQL Database and Windows Azure BLOB Storage.
Windows Azure Active Directory provides an interface to the company’s latest offering, a healthcare analytics solution based on Windows Azure HDInsight Service. McKesson can use the cloud-based Apache Hadoop cluster from Microsoft to process large volumes
of data from any healthcare provider EHR system, including the company’s own EHR product lines. Certified to Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology standards—the government organization that defines meaningful use requirements—the
McKesson healthcare analytics solution provides web-based reporting tools that hospitals can use to show compliance as well as improve operations.
With single sign-on through Windows Azure Active Directory, the solution has the flexibility to be extended with other, external web-based services.
By running its analytics services on the Windows Azure cloud platform, McKesson is simplifying development and deployment while providing a flexible, highly secure healthcare analytics solution that meets the needs of diverse healthcare organizations.
“We’re definitely excited by all the different capabilities with Windows Azure,” says Adams. “It would have taken considerable effort to write certain features on our own. But because the Microsoft cloud platform already includes tools like Windows Azure
Active Directory, which is available for free, we can focus more on developing our own applications.”
Faster Deployment and Increased Scalability
McKesson can bring new customers on board faster with confidence that the solution will scale as needed. The company reports that it can seamlessly connect the on-premises environment, including Active Directory Domain Services and EHR systems, with the
Windows Azure cloud. “Because we’re on an elastic cloud with Windows Azure, we don’t have to worry about setting up infrastructure or whether we can sustain growth with the current capacity in our data centers, says Sujatha Bayyapureddy, Enterprise Architect
at McKesson. “So it’s possible to get customers up and running within a much shorter time frame than we could accomplish with our on-premises systems.”
More Flexibility and Better Security
By deploying in the Microsoft cloud and implementing single sign-on, McKesson will be able to serve its customers’ needs securely and efficiently. Windows Azure also provides security that meets the needs of diverse organizations. “In the healthcare space,
attribute-based access to applications and data is particularly critical,” says Adams. “The Windows Azure Active Directory Graph API gives us the tools we need to provide single-sign-on capability across multiple applications.”
The flexibility also helps McKesson appeal to a broader range of customers, from small practices to large hospital systems.
Bayyapureddy says, “Our healthcare analytics solutions are a good fit for the cloud because it’s easier for hospitals to process large amounts of data. But we are also looking at using Windows Azure for other solutions in order to benefit customers that
have smaller IT divisions.”
This case study is for informational purposes only.