Improving medical care with the Microsoft Azure cloud

Gippsland Health Alliance chose Allscripts’ Sunrise platform to help make its electronic medical records more accurate, accessible and secure

Alex Smith
By Alex Smith on 25 January 2022
Improving medical care with the Microsoft Azure cloud

Operating over vast geographical distances, rural Australian healthcare providers face a significant challenge in reaching their patients to deliver the care that they require.

In order to combat this problem, the Gippsland Health Alliance (GHA), a consortium of all the publicly funded health services in the Gippsland region of Australia, wanted to find a solution to improve its electronic medical record (EMR) system, which is an electronic representation of an individual’s medical information. By doing so, it aimed to provide timely information to health professionals and administrators wherever needed, maximising the effectiveness of patient care and optimising the use of its limited resources. 

“When clinicians have information on a patient’s health status and history, they can make more informed decisions and provide a higher quality of care whilst also optimising scarce resources,” says Jon Millar, chief information officer for GHA. “This is about improving the quality of health service across a much bigger footprint in the Gippsland region and helps us deliver on our commitment to empower clinicians to deliver a world-class service.” 

Practice management and electronic health record technology provider Allscripts won the tender to deliver an EMR solution to the organisation in late 2017. The Latrobe Regional Hospital (LRH), GHA’s specialist referral and trauma centre, was selected as the first site to implement the Allscripts Sunrise EMR clinical suite. Powered by the Microsoft Azure cloud, Sunrise provides a single patient record across all care venues.  

“We chose Allscripts and its Sunrise platform on Azure because it was very important for us to have a fully managed service,” says Adrian Shearer, chief technology officer for GHA. “We were looking for an organisation that could deliver all of the infrastructure, design and security as part of the solution.” 

The EMR was first introduced in the 30-bed emergency department in April 2019 and is now fully functional across inpatient services at LRH and community mental health services across the region. While in the planning phase of the implementation of GHA’s EMR it was expected that the system would need to accommodate approximately 300 users, but by the time the system was completed there were more than 400 registered users. Unlike a system using physical infrastructure which may have required additional servers to manage this increased demand, the cloud-based Sunrise platform was able to accommodate this change with much less complexity and cost. The system also allows for the addition of temporary users, such as external physicians. 

The Sunrise platform has also helped GHA to protect patient’s personal information. The platform benefits from firewalls built into Azure that enable preventative threat detection, reducing downtime and preventing extensive damage to systems. Data sovereignty is also achieved with backup and disaster recovery sites being situated in Australia. 

These safeguards came into action in 2019, when GHA was the victim of a sophisticated cyberattack. The attack blocked access to all of the organisation’s major systems, including the financial management system. However, despite the severity of the attack, there was no indication that the hackers were able to access personal patient information. Though several systems had to be detached for quarantining purposes, but the resilience of Allscripts’ cloud-based platform mean that there was no net loss. 

“It’s really exciting to see the speed, flexibility, resiliency and security that the Azure cloud can offer in supporting the implementation of these critical clinical systems across the Gippsland Health Alliance,” said Dr Nic Woods, chief medical officer for Microsoft Australia. “Many health services are moving to these types of deployment models so they can focus on getting more value out of the solution rather than having to worry about all aspects of security that are baked into cloud services.” 

Given the successful implementation of Sunrise EMR, GHA decided to extend its use across the region to the emergency departments of the Central Gippsland Health Service, Bairnsdale Regional Health Service, West Gippsland Healthcare Group and Bass Coast Health. Sunrise will then be rolled out to inpatient services at all four hospitals, helping deliver the benefits of the EMR solution to health services in the region.  

This article was originally published in the Winter 21/22 issue of Technology Record. To get future issues delivered directly to your inbox, sign up for a free subscription.

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