NHS Scotland chooses Microsoft Azure for new track and trace system

NHS Scotland chooses Microsoft Azure for new track and trace system
Unsplash/Alexa Suter

The National Health Service (NHS) for Scotland has developed a new Covid-19 track and trace system using Microsoft Azure. The solution uses QR codes to simplify and speed up the process, and reduce the transmission of cases, as restrictions ease. 

When users scan the QR code with a phone or tablet, they are directed to a secure government website where they can fill in their name and contact details. NHS Scotland and Microsoft have also developed an app which saves users’ details and removes the need to fill in the online form each time. 

“The collection of contact information is required by the Scottish government as part of their efforts to tackle the spread of Covid-19,” said Deryck Mitchelson, director of digital and security at NHS Scotland. “However, many businesses are ill-equipped to handle the collection of that data, the security that needs to be in place to handle it and searching through it when NHS Scotland needs to trace someone. Some were using pen and paper to record that information, which isn’t ideal.

“The QR code solution is seamless and removes all that work from business owners. They register for the initiative and place the QR code poster in their workspace where customers can scan it. They don’t have to do anything else and can focus on providing great service.”

The contact information from the QR codes goes into NHS Scotland’s Azure-based data lake, where it is fully encrypted and only available to NHS Scotland contact tracers. 

“We know that a delay in contact tracing can help the spread of the virus,” said Mitchelson. “If it takes three days to get in contact with someone, they could have the virus and be potentially spreading it. If a patient has scanned a QR code, we can understand where they have been within minutes. The quicker you track and trace, the quicker you can break the transmission chain.”

Microsoft says that the QR solution can cope with hundreds of thousands of interactions per minute: “Azure scales up and down, depending on demand, giving the NHS confidence that the QR code service can be relied upon”. 

“NHS Scotland has created a QR code solution that can help quickly identify locations that a Covid-19 patient has visited,” said Michael Wignall, Azure business lead at Microsoft UK. “By using Microsoft Azure, NHS Scotland can be confident that the solution is hosted on a reliable, resilient and secure cloud platform that puts healthcare professionals in control of the data they collect. We are delighted to be working with NHS Scotland on such a vital service for the public.”
 

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