How SQL Server 2014 can help your business perform better

Medical practitioners follow stringent protocols to prevent and manage infections that can spread from one patient to another in a healthcare setting. To aid in the control of these infections, Ocean Informatics offers healthcare facilities a unique software solution that stores, processes, and reports on infection-related data. With SQL Server 2014, Ocean Informatics can cut response time and directly facilitate faster patient care, a critical step in advancing public health and protecting the population.

Business Needs:

Superbugs like MRSA and VRE, significant organisms like norovirus and influenza, and notifiable diseases such as measles all pose a risk in the healthcare setting. Hospitals and public health organizations must document and practice a disciplined healthcare delivery system to prevent, monitor, investigate, and manage potential in-facility outbreaks of these kinds of infections. Standard precautions and meticulous surveillance of infection-related events play an essential role in mitigating risk to patients and staff.

To enhance surveillance of healthcare-associated infections, independent software vendor Ocean Informatics developed Multiprac IC, a sophisticated software solution capable of computing and regularly reporting hundreds of standard notifications related to infection-control protocols. Healthcare practitioners use Multiprac IC for the continuous, automated monitoring of blood stream infections, significant organisms, surgical- site infections, outbreak detection and management, and contacts tracing, a process for cataloging patients who come into contact with infection. With this tool, infection-control practitioners can identify adverse trends, implement improvement initiatives, and assess effectiveness of interventions.

Queensland Health of Australia, which operates and administers the state’s public health system, is the largest customer of Ocean Informatics. It uses Multiprac IC and its underlying clinical data repository to process more than 30,000 microbiology and serology pathology results per day (3.5–5 million annually), create 750,000 infection Electronic Health Records (EHRs) per year, and track 1.3 million names of patients who enter the hospital for contact tracing.

Transaction-Heavy Processing

The pathology analysis alerts the infection-control practitioners so they can undertake surveillance, deliver appropriate patient care and prevent infections. To do so, the solution must handle intensive business logic processing in the database server, running a number of specific operations against patient data to identify potential risks and create notifications that set off complex processes and work flows. For each of these notifications, the program also reads the patient administration system to locate each patient in the hospital.

“The system generates hundreds of important reports about infections. Because we collect so much data to display on the notification screen, we found that we needed to store and process more transactions than we anticipated. It’s a big system and a lot of processing,” says Joe Griffiths, Engagement Manager for Ocean Informatics.

Sluggish Response Times

When medical staff pull up a dashboard on a computer or hand-held device, they regularly see more than 300 notifications, each of which initiates a round of schedules and examinations. As infection-control practitioners began to increase their use of the system, requirements of the database surged, and those who depend on these reports and notifications began to experience slow performance in the dashboard reporting—sluggishness that then slowed patient-care delivery.

In infection control, a degradation in performance of data retrieval and querying carries with it costly implications—implications that might, quite literally, risk a person’s life. A delay in isolating a patient with a significant infection, such as MRSA or VRE, for example, can increase the chance of cross infection, delay the identification of an outbreak, and lead to a lag in facility-wide contact tracing, an important part of controlling infection in the wider population.

Solution

To address what was becoming untenable response times, Ocean Informatics engaged Scalability Experts, a Microsoft partner with a gold competency in data platform, to assess the impact of moving to Microsoft SQL Server 2014 software. By conducting a series of tests in the cloud, Scalability Experts conclusively showed the effect In-Memory OLTP functionality and the new database’s ability to find optimized search paths would have on the end user.

Ocean Informatics was preparing to allocate two months of a full-time employee’s time, plus the effort needed to handle support calls to improve its product. Instead, Scalability Experts worked quickly to upgrade the database to SQL Server 2014, benchmark its performance, and configure the new system for optimal use of memory with minimal disruption to the day-to-day operations of Ocean Informatics or Queensland Health.

“We were going to have to spend a lot of money on projects and coding to improve end-user response time. Just by upgrading the infrastructure to SQL 2014, we solved the problem,” says Griffiths. “The upgrade to SQL Server 2014 let us focus our resources on end-user clinical capability rather than infrastructure. This will improve customer workflows that increase responsiveness to infections.”

Benefits

The Ocean Informatics upgrade to SQL Server 2014 brought dramatic increases in efficiency and effectiveness to the daily work of infection-control clinical surveillance at Queensland Health and its 57 healthcare facilities launching the solution.

“All the extra intelligence with SQL Server 2014 does what we need in a much more efficient way. So without changing our code, we began to see improvements,” says Griffiths. “We’re talking significant end-user response time improvements.”

Faster Patient Care

The fact that the SQL Server 2014 In-Memory OLTP engine finds data from memory instead of searching caches or disks translates to a fivefold increase in the read time of data transfers from peripheral devices to hospital computers. Customers also see significantly reduced response times: a report that once took 17 seconds now takes only 4 seconds. Faster querying decreases the time for the application webpages to load and for the reports to run, meaning infection-control practitioners can surveil and act at a pace that meets crucial medical and administrative protocols.

“When the system is slow, infection control practitioners cannot be as reactive to important notifications. When a notification comes up in as fast as, say, four seconds, they become more interactive with the system and therefore more responsive to infections and more able to protect other patients,” says Griffiths. “They have a whole new set of efficiencies around infection management.”

Better Business Health

Upgrading to SQL Server 2014 brings not only technological advances to Ocean Informatics but also business advantages. “Our brand reputation for performance is critical,” says Griffiths. “Our customers are waiting eagerly for our new staff health module, and now we can apply our very special skillset to completing the next round of developments on that.”

The server upgrade for Ocean Informatics is concurrent with its move to the Microsoft Azure cloud platform, a move that saves it and its customers significant investment in infrastructure. “Being on Azure means we can configure hybrid solutions working with data on the customer’s premises or in the cloud, which offers huge flexibility especially for training, Disaster Recovery, and testing environments.” says Griffiths.

To build on its improved database management system and cloud capabilities, Ocean Informatics is now preparing to offer its customers self-service business intelligence reporting with Microsoft Power BI. “Analytics will be another powerful tool for investigation, a way to detect trends in infection control in order to gradually reduce overall rates and help the customers become self-sufficient in their reporting.”

Office 365 brings significant new value to business customers worldwide

Microsoft is excited to announce the availability of several new Office 365 communications services designed to modernize voice, video, and meeting experiences, while saving companies substantial costs in their communication infrastructure. Organizations can now replace their legacy meeting and phone systems with innovative services built on the familiar Skype for Business experience, all naturally integrated within Office 365—the world’s most-used collaboration and productivity platform.

They are also excited to announce significant new security and analytics capabilities aimed at dramatically improving our customers’ ability to protect their organizations and glean insights from data.

Communication-powered productivity

Microsoft believes that the heart of productivity is great teamwork, and the heart of great teams is great communication. Productivity today is centered on conversations—sometimes a quick instant message or call, and sometimes a meeting planned in advance including voice, video and content sharing.

With many different avenues of communication, people need tools that allow them flexibility in how they connect. For years, consumers have embraced new ways of communicating, turning “Skype” into a verb synonymous with video calling. But corporate telephony, including PBX systems, and audio and video conferencing systems, has lagged behind—until now. Having Skype for Business as an integrated part of the work people are already doing in Office means greater continuity as they collaborate and communicate throughout their day.

Built on the familiar Skype user interface, Skype for Business makes connecting with colleagues as easy and intuitive as connecting with friends and family on Skype. With the new services, Skype for Business gets even better, for organizations and their people:

  • PSTN Conferencing provides the flexibility to dial in to a meeting from a traditional phone, in addition to the existing ability to join a meeting with a single click on your PC or mobile device.
  • Skype Meeting Broadcast makes it easier than ever to produce large virtual meetings for up to 10,000 meeting attendees, who can join from virtually any browser or device (see it in action). Now Skype for Business truly is a single platform for every type of meeting.
  • Cloud PBX enables companies to eliminate separate PBX systems and transition to the cloud with Office 365 as the central location to manage users for communication and
  • With PSTN Calling, Office 365 customers can also subscribe to Microsoft managed calling plans and phone numbers, starting in the U.S. with more markets coming later.

Learn more about how the new Skype for Business capabilities can benefit your organization? Click here to watch the video 

Simplify your infrastructure, lower your costs and empower your people

Microsoft is the only company that has built this combination of capabilities—a cloud business phone system including dial tone, and a complete meetings solution including audio, video, content sharing and messaging service—as a core part of a complete productivity and collaboration suite, available across mobile platforms and at a global scale.

Today, over half of Microsoft business customers are currently paying for multiple conferencing solutions, and many are still using legacy PBX phone systems. Now they can simplify their infrastructure with one cloud platform for meetings and voice, ultimately reducing the cost, complexity and effort of maintaining legacy phone and conferencing systems.

But it’s about more than saving money. People spend nearly a third of their time at work in meetings, yet only 18 percent of information workers actively use conferencing tools that enable rich experiences like video and content sharing. When you consider that nonverbal signals account for nearly 90 percent of the messages we receive during interpersonal communication, it’s clear that moving to modern communication tools can have a dramatic impact on productivity and collaboration.

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Desktop sharing during a Skype for Business meeting.

Deeper value from security and analytics

In addition to the Skype for Business capabilities, Microsoft is releasing new security and data analytics capabilities in Office 365, including:

  • Delve Analytics – Empowers individuals through rich dashboards that provide insights on time and relationships, with the goal of helping individuals get time back and spend it effectively.
  • Power BI – A business analytics service that enables information workers to visualize and analyze data with greater speed, efficiency and understanding through live data dashboards, interactive reports and compelling visualizations.
  • Customer Lockbox – Gives customers new approval rights, transparency and control over their data in the cloud.
  • Advanced eDiscovery – Integrates Equivio machine learning, predictive coding and text analytics capabilities, to reduce the costs and challenges that come along with sorting through large quantities of data for eDiscovery purposes.
  • Advanced Threat Protection—Protects against unknown malware and viruses by applying behavioral analysis.

All of the new capabilities are now available and represent significant new value to enterprise customers. We’re excited to see the impact it can have on your organization!

Building the Intelligent Cloud: Announcing New Azure Innovations to Transform Business

The three significant trends have emerged across organizations of all types and sizes when it comes to maximizing business value – and gaining competitive advantage – in the cloud. First, applications are spurring organizations to achieve faster time to value. Meanwhile, higher-level services, like machine learning, predictive analytics and the Internet of Things (IoT), are driving faster time to innovation—helping customers not just reinvent business processes, but reimagine what is possible. But this doesn’t mean that cloud infrastructure has taken a backseat. Infrastructure underpinning the cloud remains critical, providing reliability and peace of mind to customers while helping them scale up faster to improve their bottom line.

Building and Managing Modern Applications

Microsoft is excited to announce the new Azure Container Service, an open source container scheduling and orchestration service which builds on our partnerships with both Docker and Mesosphere, as well as our contributions to open source projects in this space. This service leverages both Docker and Apache Mesos in order to deliver an open source environment for running container workloads. Given our work with Docker to date, it is unlikely to surprise anyone that we include this important technology, but why Mesos? After speaking with many enterprise customers who have turned to Mesos to address challenges with container-based applications, it was clear that Mesos should be our first supported orchestrator. Mesos already powers leading brands like Twitter, all of Apple’s Siri, large parts of Airbnb, Netflix and OpenTable.

They’ve built the Azure Container Service in close collaboration with Mesosphere, using open source components from their DCOS offering including DCOS Marathon (for launching and scaling container based applications) and Chronos (for distributed cron and batch workloads). Additionally, many of their customers are excited to deploy Docker containers using Docker Swarm and Docker Compose. In continuing their partnership with Docker, the Azure Container Service will also have the ability to deploy, scale and orchestrate Swarm based solutions as well. Azure Container Service will be available in preview before the end of the calendar year.

Big Data and the Internet of Things

The intelligent cloud is powered by data – and innovation is limitless when that data can be shared, gleaned for insights across connected assets, devices and systems. That is why the Internet of Things has captured the world’s imagination, with customers like Rockwell and ThyssenKrupp Elevators connecting data and devices to solve business problems and improve their operations. Microsoft is announcing that the Azure IoT Suite is available to purchase. Built on Microsoft’s proven cloud platform, the suite integrates with a company’s existing processes, devices and systems to quickly and easily build and scale IoT projects. It is purpose-built to address common business needs for IoT, such as remote monitoring, asset management and predictive maintenance. When a business is able to connect the assets it already owns and then harness the power of the data these assets are already generating, they realize operational efficiencies, create innovation and can transform their business.

In addition, Microsoft also announced the new Microsoft Azure Certified for IoT program, an ecosystem of partners whose offerings have been tested and certified to help businesses with their IoT device and platform needs. Initial partners include Beaglebone, Freescale, Intel, Raspberry Pi, Resin.io, Seeed and Texas Instruments.

In case you missed it, recently Microsoft announced that the Cortana Analytics Suite — a fully managed big data and advanced analytics suite that enables you to transform your data into intelligent action – is available for purchase. They also announced the expanded vision for Azure Data Lake, which includes a store, analytics service and our existing managed Hadoop-as-a-service offer, Azure HDInsight. In addition, HDInsight on Linux is now generally available. With Visual Studio integration, we simplify authoring, debugging, and optimization of big data code. We’re also introducing U-SQL, a new language that unifies the benefits of SQL with the expressive power of user code. Working with big data no longer requires your entire team to learn new skills before they become productive.

Intelligent Infrastructure: Trust at Hyper-Scale 

None of this would be possible in the cloud without trusted, reliable cloud infrastructure at the foundation. And for our customers around the world, it’s critical Microsoft provide infrastructure that supports the growth and scale of their business needs – no matter how high the peaks are, and no matter where in the world they are. This is the true value of the hyper-scale cloud. With 24 regions around the world – more than AWS and Google combined – no one is delivering hyper-scale like Microsoft Azure.

A trusted infrastructure also means providing customers with control, security and transparency across their cloud infrastructure and assets. This is more important than ever with cybersecurity attacks continuing to make headlines across the globe. That’s why Microsoft is excited to announce the new Azure Security Center – an integrated security solution that gives customers end to end visibility and control of the security of their Azure resources, helping them to stay ahead of threats as they evolve.

Finally, to further boost the performance of our world-class cloud infrastructure, Micorosft announced the N-series, a new family of Azure Virtual Machines with GPU capabilities. GPUs are ideal for compute and graphics-intensive workloads, helping customers to fuel innovation through scenarios like remote visualization, high performance computing and analytics. Available in preview within the next few months, the N-series will feature the NVIDIA Tesla Accelerated Computing Platform as well as NVIDIA GRID 2.0 technology, providing the highest-end graphics support available in the cloud today.

Easy and Affordable Cloud Innovation

In addition to ensuring Microsoft customers can innovate simply at cloud speed, Microsoft also remain committed to helping them manage their cloud investments easily and affordably, with new troubleshooting tools, support resources and pricing options. Recently Microsoft announced the Azure Compute Pre-Purchase Plan, a new pricing program designed for customers with steady state, predictable workloads on Azure. With this new offer, customers who pre-purchase Azure compute for one year can realize cost savings of up to 63 percent.