Emis Group, used by six in 10 GPs, plans to shift the back-end of its dominant web software to UK-based AWS servers
The dominant supplier of NHS GP IT services is to shift more than 40 million patient records onto Amazon’s AWS cloud service as part of an upgrade to its web-based software.
Emis Group’s Emis Web is currently used by more than 10,000 organisations, and about 56 percent of GPs, to handle patient records and other digital services.
The group is one of four principal NHS tech suppliers, with two of them, Emis and TPP, controlling some 90 percent of the market.
Roughly six in 10 UK GP practices use Emis Web and it holds the majority of GP records.
Public cloud infrastructure
Emis’ new system, called Emis-X, is based on AWS and is to run on servers based in the UK, Emis said.
Shifting the records requires NHS approval, and as such Emis has given no timeline for the move.
But it said the migration would be gradual, with one module shifted at a time, in order to reduce any risk of disruption.
The migration marks one of the biggest shifts of NHS patient records onto a major public cloud provider, with most such data being stored by local NHS organisations or on contractors’ own servers.
Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock said in October he wanted all NHS IT services moved to the public cloud, arguing services run by the likes of Amazon, Microsoft or Google are more resilient.
NHS Digital has over time become increasingly favourable to the public cloud, and in January issued official guidance approving even the use of US-based cloud data centres.
Microsoft, Amazon and others have in recent years established UK-based cloud facilities in order to attract business from the likes of the NHS and the Ministry of Defence.
The AWS-based system is to introduce additional digital patient services, Emis said, including smartphone-based video consultations and a chatbot triage service.
Emis said the system would save time by allowing staff to consult records in one place, rather than in separate and unconnected systems.
The new system is to introduce improved interoperability and make records-sharing easier, features NHS Digital has been pressuring suppliers to deliver.
Emis said better interoperability would make it easier for new technology providers offering tech such as artificial intelligence to connect to the NHS.
“We have been working closely with clinicians and other customers during 2018 to develop Emis-X,” said Emis chief executive Andy Thorburn. “We believe it is the blueprint for the future of connected healthcare in the UK.”
The new system introduces analytics capabilities that Emis said should give better insight into areas such as appointments capacity and prescribing and referral patterns.
The NHS is planning to bring in a £450 million overhaul of its current contractual framework next year.
The more modular system is intended to increase competition amongst suppliers and offer care providers greater choice.
Aside from Emis and TPP, two other suppliers, INPS and Microtest, are available via the current framework.
Last month a study ranked digital services as the lowest priority for new NHS spending in the eyes of the public, with better quality care and staff retention ranking at the top of the list.