eRx script exchange turns to NetApp and Envisian to help Australians gain fast access to electronic prescriptions
eRx Script Exchange is a cloud-based prescription-exchange application. The eRx Script Exchange is available in dispensing software packages that cover 99% of Australian pharmacies, and in medical prescribing packages that cover 90% of Australian doctors. When a doctor creates a patient’s prescription in his/her IT system, the corresponding electronic record is simultaneously and seamlessly sent for storage in eRx. When the patient presents the prescription at the pharmacy of their choice, the pharmacist downloads the secure patient data from eRx, which prevents errors and also maintains the privacy of the patient’s data through a secure cloud application.
More than 13,000 doctors and 3,200 pharmacies have used the system, with a record of 750,000 prescriptions dispensed in one day and 4.2 million prescriptions in one week in the lead-up to Christmas 2011.
eRx is owned by Fred IT Group, Australia’s largest dedicated provider of business and professional solutions to the pharmacy and retail industries. Beginning more than 20 years ago, the company has around 150 employees in six offices across Australia.
Fred Health is the division within Fred IT Group specialising in the pharmacy industry. Fred Health offers a full suite of solutions and services to the pharmacy industry and currently has more than 3,200 pharmacies across Australia as customers. These pharmacies use Fred’s solutions for dispensing, point of sale and back office functionality.
With the company’s major shareholder being the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, combined with a significant proportion of pharmacists on-staff, Fred Health has a unique view of the present and future needs of the industry.
eRx Script Exchange had reached the stage where so many doctors and pharmacies were using eRx that the size of the data had grown beyond the capabilities of its legacy storage system. The company’s data was growing at a rapid rate, which was causing system performance issues, and without adjustments, the system would simply stop working. This would prevent doctors and pharmacists from sending and receiving patient prescription information quickly, accurately and securely and would result in users becoming frustrated with the system.
A system upgrade of the existing infrastructure would have required a substantial financial investment by eRx, while not necessarily meeting the scalability and functional needs of the business.
And this was all happening in the lead-up to the end of the calendar year – a time when demand for prescriptions increases massively in Australia due to the end-of-year cut-off of the Federal Government Pharmaceutical Safety Net scheme, which meant performance issues were not an option eRx could consider.
eRx needed a data storage solution that could take control of the company’s existing storage environment and scale it up organically, to allow for the spikes and troughs which occur in prescription fulfilment throughout the year.
The company engaged NetApp and Envisian to design and implement a solution that could take on their data storage challenges. eRx was also seeking a partner who could provide a technology solution that would allow the company to maximise its investment in its legacy storage system, while consolidating to a single management interface.
Andrew Badge, General Manager of IT Services and Infrastructure for Fred IT Group, the company that looks after the eRx Script Exchange infrastructure, said, “After evaluating what was available in the market, we chose to go with a NetApp-based solution because of its simplicity and ease of management. In addition, a critical factor in our decision was the fact that NetApp technology is multi-vendor, can be implemented over the top of any existing storage infrastructure, then take over that system to ensure it’s running at maximum benefit.”
Envisian recommended a NetApp V3210 storage system with a tray of 600GB SAS hard drives. NetApp’s V-Series product line provides customers with the ability to virtualise their existing storage system, which includes taking over the management of the existing resources and driving efficiency through the entire system.
eRx also implemented NetApp SnapManager for SQL for near-instantaneous backup and restoration of databases, as well as NetApp FlexClone for rapid, space-efficient database cloning.
Andrew Badge said, “NetApp and Envisian designed and implemented the new solution before time, which meant we were up-and-running and fully tested in the real-world environment well in advance of the Christmas spike.
“All of the pre-configuration and the physical installations happened during business hours because the NetApp solution had no effect on our other equipment – even the critical infrastructure. The Envisian team was outstanding for the entire process.
“Our data is growing every moment of every day, so the bottom line for us is whether the system has the storage to meet the changing demand and the performance to handle the amount of data being pushed through. In both cases, the answer is a resounding ‘yes’.”
“Envisian also helped us migrate some of our equipment from one data centre to another, located on the other side of the city. Overnight, Envisian moved a whole rack of equipment across the city and had it working by morning. The process went unbelievably smoothly and seamlessly. This outcome is indicative of all the work we’ve done with Envisian – the results on each project are excellent.”
eRx is experiencing several business benefits as a result of the installation.
Andrew Badge said, “The most significant benefit from our perspective is that it works. Over the Christmas period, we didn’t have a single support call. Not one blip. I’d call that a success!”
In terms of who’s feeling the benefits, Fred IT Group’s IT department is the primary beneficiary, with a significant reduction in support tickets.
“The NetApp system has given us so much flexibility and scalability that our IT team is receiving close to zero support tickets. This means they can focus on improving our overall offerings, drive efficiencies and work to make our business better rather than putting out fires on a daily basis,” said Badge.
When eRx had to run database queries on the legacy infrastructure, the system was experiencing regular failures. The new system, with a combination of NetApp storage, NetApp SnapManager for SQL and NetApp FlexClone allows the eRx team to run what it refers to as “mega queries” with no delays or issues whatsoever.
“On our current system, we’re running queries that we could never have run on the legacy infrastructure – and it’s only taking about an hour each time,” said Badge.
“In the bigger scheme of things, patients are the ones who benefit because they can be comfortable in the fact that the data being used by the pharmacist is accurate and coming via secure, encrypted channels.
“From our business perspective, the NetApp system gives us greater potential for development than we’ve ever had before.”
The next stage for eRx is to work with Envisian and NetApp to develop a more comprehensive disaster recovery strategy.
“Now that we have the infrastructure in place to handle it, we can create systems and processes like we’ve never had before. NetApp allows us the flexibility to not just grow as we need, but to access many other tools and features that will enable us to create a more robust, high-performance solution,” said Andrew Badge. “For example, our backups will be improved through snapshotting technology, which will in turn, reduce our performance load. We will be able to generate a live copy of a database within seconds, without affecting production.”
“Ultimately, we have the technology we need on tap with this system. If any new project comes up in the future where we need high data volume and high availability, NetApp will be on top of my list,” Badge said.
NetApp V3210 V-Series Storage Controller