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Accelerating the digital transformation of UK healthcare

Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust now has the ability to roll out electronic patient records, absorb and onboard new healthcare providers, and rapidly deploy remote working during the COVID-19 crisis, through VMware Cloud Foundation. The platform establishes an efficient, agile platform on which to drive digital transformation.

Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust provides healthcare services for the population of Gloucester and beyond. It has around 8,000 staff and provides a wide range of specialist hospital services from two main sites at Gloucestershire Royal and Cheltenham General Hospital, as well as maternity services at Stroud Maternity Hospital.

Like others in the healthcare space, Gloucestershire wants to accelerate its digital transformation. The proliferation of mobile devices, of Wi-Fi-enabled medical equipment, and seamless connectivity across multiple sites has the power to completely transform the way the trust delivers care.

The trust has laid out a five-year strategic plan to transform hospital services and provide care for the next generation of patients. From Laggard to Leader, the name of the digital transformation element, recognises Gloucestershire’s digital standing compared to others, and how far the trust has to travel.

This is not digital transformation for transformation’s sake. There are three business objectives to the programme. Gloucestershire wants to improve business continuity, provide services to other healthcare providers in the region, and make it faster to deploy or scale up new digital services. Digital transformation will create a more connected, robust, and dynamic healthcare environment. Now, these goals have accelerated due to rapid changes in global health needs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Driving the trust forward

VMware Cloud Foundation creates an efficient, agile platform on which to drive the trust forward. From planning to deployment in just nine months, VMware Cloud Foundation enables Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust to be more secure, more flexible, and more efficient in the way it manages its IT environment.

But how did the trust get here?

The journey started in 2018. Three members of Gloucestershire’s storage and servers team attended the VMware Healthcare User Group, an event run by the VMware public sector team. It was here that details of VMware’s software-defined network capabilities were revealed, and Gloucestershire disclosed specifics around the areas it needed to address.

Of the latter, this included the modernisation of its two data centres, creation of multi-tenancy capability on a private cloud, infrastructure consolidation, integration with existing storage infrastructure, ‘east/west’ security, all under the theme of being cloud-ready.

In the words of Tim Mullan, IT transformation programme lead, Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust: “From an infrastructure perspective, our focus is on building a modern infrastructure with consistent operations. Our old infrastructure was not highly available. It wasn’t really safe enough for us to deliver digital services.”

VMware worked in conjunction with LIMA Networks, a VMware partner based in Salford Quays. LIMA was integral to the project’s success, leading the discovery phase, establishing detail around Gloucestershire’s objectives and matching up VMware solutions against specific tasks. It mapped how a software-defined architecture could work.

“We wanted to help the team at Gloucestershire with every step of its digital transformation journey, not only with regards to planning and implementation. We pride ourselves on our personal approach that also relates to knowledge transfer, skills and training,” says Martin Ingham, Technical Director at LIMA Networks.

It was at this point that the VMware Cloud Foundation proposition began to take shape.

Creating a software layer that is scalable and moveable

The VMware engagement creates a modern infrastructure set in software-defined architecture. It takes the intelligence contained within hardware, compute, storage, networking, and management siloes, establishing in its place a software layer that is scalable and moveable. It means Gloucestershire is no longer constrained by its hardware footprint.

The solution comprises VMware Cloud Foundation, a combination of compute, storage, networking and management. Planning and implementation were managed through LIMA, with VMware support.

VMware NSX® Data Center delivers a complete networking and security virtualisation platform — providing the trust with the agility, automation, and dramatic cost savings that come with a software-only solution. It enables Gloucestershire to deliver granular protection via micro-segmentation down to the individual workload. It can create context-aware security policies per workload to defend against lateral threats within the trust.

Arguably, it is VMware vRealize® Suite that made the biggest impact, certainly at an organisational level. By proactively addressing performance, visibility, and efficiency to deliver consistent operations of IT services across heterogeneous and hybrid cloud environments, the trust quickly understood how it could reduce costs, accelerate innovation and improve control while mitigating risks. By changing the way infrastructure is managed, the trust has been able to change the way IT teams operate.

Making the impossible possible

The impact has been dramatic. The trust now has a robust DR capability, it has started providing services to two healthcare providers in the region, securely and quickly, and it has capacity on tap to scale when required. Micro-segmentation ensures different user groups are secure and contained.

The most visible difference is perhaps the successful roll out of Electronic Patient Records, built on Allscripts, and delivered six months ahead of schedule. Gloucestershire now has a consistent digital record for every patient, saving reams of paper and countless hours, and enabling faster diagnosis. The project would not have been possible without the VMware Cloud Foundation platform, says Mullan. These benefits are realised as Gloucestershire NHS has modernised its infrastructure to deliver a private cloud.

Similarly, the COVID-19 crisis has required the trust to accelerate its virtual desktop infrastructure. Doctors, management, and administration staff have had to work remotely. Again, the scale and certainty of VMware Cloud Foundation has enabled the trust to move quickly. Currently, more than 2,000 staff are working remotely.

“The journey continues,” says Mullan, “but today we have an end-to-end solution, with complete interoperability, out of the box. From pre-sales to deployment to production, it has been a positive experience.”


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