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BMI Healthcare has centralised management of business data across its organisation with Oracle’s PeopleSoft, helping to increase use of critical hospital services.

BMI Healthcare has centralised management of business data across its organisation with Oracle’s PeopleSoft, helping to increase use of critical hospital services.

The private healthcare firm trained 5,600 staff across its network of 56 hospitals in the UK. To offer a consolidated view of financials and other resources across its business, BMI deployed PeopleSoft in January this year, replacing numerous locally-deployed legacy systems. 

With the help of a business intelligence platform, PeopleSoft has enabled BMI to enhance the management of hospital services, said Paul Cowley, technology solutions director at BMI.

“One of the key differentiators between the private and public sector is waiting times. So having a central system that allows us to see our facilities activity means we can make best use of our available theatres, or a MRI scanner, and make sure we are serving our patients well,” he told ComputerworldUK.

He added: “We can achieve near real-time feeds on critical information, whereas with the old decentralised system some of the reporting was as infrequently as monthly."

“For example, because the PeopleSoft system does all of the ward and theatre management we can see our theatre utilisation visually on a real-time basis – both the scheduling of it graphically in PeopleSoft but also the reporting of it through our management information system."

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Legacy software

BMI previously relied on legacy software from iSoft - later acquired by CSC - but vendor support for the product had ended. This was a locally supported system, requiring a separate software instance running on a Unix server at each individual hospital site, and was at odds with moves to deliver services centrally. 

“It didn’t fit with our strategy as it didn’t offer us the flexibility we needed," Cowley said.

“It made it difficult to support a shared finance centre, and gave us issues in terms of providing strong reporting and business intelligence. It also made it harder for a central IT team to support.”

BMI chose to roll out PeopleSoft as a single solution across all of its sites, delivered through a Vodafone wide area network (WAN), after an 18-month implementation process. 

The software included six financials modules from within the PeopleSoft application, as well as another nine applications developed in-house to deliver patient administration systems, such as ward management, theatre management and pharmacy dispensing.

The company has now replaced its entire Unix server estate with six HP servers running on Windows, hosted in a co-location facility.

Migration challenge

The migration process from the legacy systems was difficult, said Cowley, but the work to 'cut-over' - or migrate user data - was completed on schedule, without major disruption to hospital operations.

“Extracting the data from those systems was a challenge, and we worked with vendors on both sides to develop the extract scripts,” he said.

“We would typically cut-over four hospitals per month over the 18-month period. At the point of cut-over you not only need to move historical information but future bookings, and data about current patients. So that was extensively tested to make sure that it all went well on the day, as we could not shut down any of the hospitals.”

Business intelligence

The PeopleSoft system has allowed BMI Healthcare to further its business analytics strategy, said Cowley. The company had previously implemented IBM Cognos, backed up by an Oracle data warehouse, but its impact had been limited due to the disjointed nature of the previous financial management tool.

Having a central system that is also Oracle-based meant that the firm could feed information into the analytics system more effectively and in a more timely manner, he said.

"Because PeopleSoft allowed us to have much better information to hand we now have an ongoing project looking at improving and making better use of our management information."

Cloud decision

Before choosing PeopleSoft, BMI Healthcare considered a number of other vendors in the space, with a shortlist also containing Lawson and CSC.

However, it excluded a number of US software-as-a-service vendors in the market from the selection process, due to the internal business requirement that patient data was kept within the UK.

“It is difficult to consider [many cloud suppliers] because many are US-based, and patient confidentiality is absolutely utmost in our minds all of the time. So we are very strict about both the security of our patient data and where our patient data goes in terms of physical location," said Cowley.

“Having patient data outside of the UK warrants extra caution - having patient data outside of the EU is something that we are not doing at this time.”

Future development

Going forward, the firm intends to continue to use the ability to develop on top of PeopleSoft, with the planned introduction of a module to support the NHS ‘Choose and Book’ national electronic referral service later this year. BMI already supports NHS 500,000 patients each year and it is a growing area for the company.

“This is a good example of where PeopleSoft is adaptable; we can grow it to not only help meet a business need, but also drive a business initiative through it," said Cowley.

"If we had gone with some of those other vendors we would have had to develop outside of that product and integrate it, rather than developing within the product."