Cloud platform gives UK patients and GPs mobile access to healthcare information


EMIS Group, a leading supplier of healthcare software for GPs in the UK, 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 UK 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 UK 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.

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.

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