Like many of our businesses, healthcare providers deal with a substantial amount of data and have to consider compliance and data protection alongside operational efficiency. To deal with the challenge of storing and sharing patient data across multiple locations, many practices are moving their operations to the cloud. With Microsoft already underpinning most healthcare systems, it is the obvious choice for cloud migration offering a seamless migration with a strong focus on security and compliance.
What Challenges Was GE Healthcare Facing?
Amongst the many healthcare providers that have moved to the cloud with Azure is GE Healthcare. The company, a division of General Electric, provides services such as medical imaging and information technologies, medical diagnostics and patient monitoring.
GE Healthcare needed a flexible and extremely scalable platform that would be able to deliver its wide range of global solutions and services. Moreover, it required cost-effective and efficient ways to innovate, helping it to create new ways to diagnose and treat the likes of cancer and heart disease.
The business was well aware of the need for better insight and control over patient data to improve both efficiency and clinical care. However, evermore relevant with increasingly stringent regulatory requirements, was the obligation to protect patient information. Every customer in every country has compliance obligations, making an adaptable solution vital to suit a wide range of privacy and security requirements.
The challenge, of course, meeting these goals without devoting more time and money to on-premises infrastructure.
Why Did GE Healthcare Choose Microsoft Azure?
GE Healthcare, as a large business, was already working with a variety of cloud partners. However, by using Azure’s Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), it had the opportunity to centralise its software distribution and management. Moving everything over to one cloud provider would make working in the cloud simpler and also much more scalable.
By choosing Azure, GE Healthcare could continue working with all of its existing tools. Their Java code and messaging system amongst other things could stay the same, resulting in minimal impact on their operations. What’s more, Microsoft would free up time by managing service operations and updates, and offering high-level support and architectural expertise.
And, of course, the company was attracted to Microsoft’s experience with managing compliance in the healthcare industry. Microsoft offers technical safeguards and a HIPAA Business Associate Agreement (BAA) to guarantee certain security and privacy provisions are met.
GE Healthcare’s App Migration Journey
GE Healthcare started its app migration journey by receiving a proof of concept from Microsoft. This helped to decide how to transition applications that were currently running on-premises. The transition was done using Azure’s Virtual Machines (VMs), allowing multiple application components to be hosted. The VMs were fully compatible with on-premises infrastructure such as its SQL Server and .NET. The success of the proof of concept and initial migration led to a project extension to new and developing applications. The company has used the cloud throughout, including for development, testing and customer pilots.
By migrating to Microsoft Azure, GE Healthcare has been able to deliver new and improved solutions to its clients, including:
- iCenter – an existing asset maintenance and management app that when migrated to the cloud-enabled faster data-driven decision and improved hospital operations.
- Centricity 360TM featuring Case Exchange – providing secure image and data exchange to physicians in their care settings, which allows doctors working in different locations to view the same diagnostic images simultaneously and collaborate more effectively.
- Centricity Clinical Quality Reporting (CQR) – an existing app that creates reports on government-tracked clinical quality measures that when migrated to the cloud-enabled easy visualisations of data to evaluate whether requirements are being met.
The Benefits of App Migration with Azure
With the help of Microsoft Azure, GE Healthcare has created a flexible, scalable and service-oriented architecture. The key benefits to the company include:
- Faster time-to-market – traditional infrastructure barriers have been removed.
- Lower operating costs – new applications can be developed, tested and launched with minimal investment in infrastructure.
- Ensure regulatory compliance – Microsoft’s technical safeguards and extensive support guarantees that security and privacy are delivered and regulations met.
- Increased flexibility – with plans to adopt Azure’s Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), GE Healthcare can take advantage of automated service maintenance and scalability.
- Faster innovation – by migrating to Axure, the company no longer has to focus on infrastructure.
- Optimised compatibility – as Microsoft is a trusted business partner for the healthcare industry, the company is confident that all EHR systems will be supported and compliant.
- Improved security – data security and privacy is managed by a team of Azure’s IT professionals with constant upkeep on security features that isn’t possible on-premises.
- Automated maintenance – with updates happening remotely, IT teams can focus their energies on other tasks, and new features can be implemented without disrupting day-to-day operations.
Could Reshoting Help Your Business?
If you’d like to be able to bring new solutions to the market faster, scale your operations easily, and meet the needs of varying customers, then migrating to the cloud with Azure could well be the right solution. Even if you’ve started your journey to the cloud, it might not be delivering the value that you’d hoped for. Microsoft Azure, as shown by GE Healthcare’s story, can help improve operational efficiencies, free up data centre space and remove maintenance concerns. What’s more, with the pressure of management removed, you have more flexibility and room for innovation, allowing you to drive your business forward.
To summarise, here are the challenges, the solution and the benefits that GE Healthcare experienced:
- Challenges – the company was struggling to find cost-effective ways to innovate. It desperately needed more flexibility and scalability but needed to achieve it alongside ensuring security and compliance.
- Solution – Microsoft Azure’s seamless migration, especially for those already using Microsoft products, allowed all apps to be transitioned to the cloud and managed centrally. Existing tools could still be used, and there was minimal impact on day-to-day operations
- Benefits – new applications can be developed, tested and launched with minimal investment in infrastructure. Data security and privacy is managed by a highly-experienced and dedicated IT team along with automated maintenance so that the business can focus much less on infrastructure and much more on innovation.