Meeting the needs of people with fast, reliable connections

 |   Microsoft NZ News Centre

Nursing staff assists patient

Offering home and community-based health and disability specialist support, Healthcare NZ Limited provides around 7,000 skilled and trained support workers across the north and south islands. Keeping everyone connected requires tools and technologies that work together seamlessly.

A Steady Connection on Shaky Ground

New Zealand has experienced quite a few natural disasters in its recent past. Located on the edge of the Ring of Fire, where about 90% of the world’s earthquakes occur, dependable connectivity is especially crucial to a company that supports a large number of vulnerable people.

Because of this potentially volatile disaster situation, particularly in areas around Wellington and Christchurch, the government has changed its data retention policies. Now medical records no longer need to be stored ‘on land’ in country, but can be housed in data centres in Australia, where earthquakes are virtually non-existent.

Ensuring fast, reliable connections to these data centres is of utmost importance. As ICT Solutions Engineer Wallace Warner notes, “When nature throws a punch, we have to be ready with robust and scalable connectivity solutions that can keep our people in the field working.” As the person responsible for overseeing HealthCare NZ’s network, Warner is impressed with the faster speeds and lower latencies that Microsoft Azure ExpressRoute provides.

Faster Performance Around the Clock

Before they engaged the ExpressRoute service HealthCare NZ was using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) without built-in redundancy. It wasn’t scalable and traffic speed was erratic. Different verticals within the company were constantly vying for bandwidth priority. Add to that the challenges of managing security, and the move to ExpressRoute was a breath of fresh air.

“The big Azure presence in Australia means faster connections for us” says Warner, “as opposed to using a VPN, security is more robust, there are less hoops to jump through and the entire infrastructure is much more scalable.” Overall HealthCare NZ has found the ExpressRoute solution to be much more reliable, which is crucial for public health services that need to be operational 24/7.

Network redundancy is critical in a disaster prone region like New Zealand.

Coordinating Services Across Disciplines

HealthCare NZ has grown quickly over the past few years. Its portfolio has expanded to include support for people with disabilities, nursing services, occupational rehabilitation, behavioural support and even mental health support. As new businesses were introduced, a recurring challenge was integrating the various Content Management Systems (CMS) into a single infrastructure.

With three data centres and 250 servers across a countrywide WAN, coordinating and standardising their network technologies was critical. “We applied a cookie-cutter approach” says Warner. “Getting different companies speaking the same language and conforming to the same technology is always difficult, but what’s great about Microsoft solutions is that they work so well together.” ExpressRoute supports bandwidths up to 100Gbps making periodic data migration, business continuity, and disaster recovery much more cost effective for quickly transferring large databases, such as Electronic Medical Records (EMRs).

Empowering a Mobile Workforce

As digital transformation seeps into every aspect of our lives, the healthcare industry hasn’t been left untouched. The most recent casualty has been paper records. And according to Warner, this is not a bad thing. “Paper records are a legacy that I’m happy to see are quickly disappearing. We had a huge problem with paper. From time sheets to patient notes, there were about 40,000 paper records that needed to be processed into our database everyday. The time it took, not to mention the cost, was overwhelming.”

HealthCare NZ’s solution was to bring these records online and integrate them into a mobile app. Warner notes, “This solution allows timesheets to be filled out on the go. With the predictable, reliable and high-throughput connections that ExpressRoute provides, EMRs are available whenever – or wherever – a nurse needs them.”

Everything Just Works Together

ExpressRoute has made it easy to connect all of HealthCare NZ’s businesses to Azure, and now they are in the process of migrating all of their systems into the cloud. “Azure’s cloud capabilities and it’s ‘cloud first’ approach is very appealing from an IT perspective” says Warner. “Office 365 and its very effective multi-factor cloud authentication is a product that really, really suits us.”

“We always look at Microsoft technology first because it integrates well with everything and makes our life easier.”
Wallace Warner, ICT Solutions Engineer

Want to learn more? Read more Microsoft NZ customer stories here.

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