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Case study

Moving healthcare to the cloud

Nortal built a Microsoft Azure cloud environment for Finland’s Kanta-Häme county that allows multiple IT vendors to develop services independently with shared underlying infrastructure and governance. 

Orders from above

In 2021, Finland’s government passed social and healthcare reform legislation making the organization of health, social, and emergency services the responsibility of 21 “Wellbeing” counties in Finland. The reform was designed to ensure equality of service to end users while controlling cost growth. Kanta-Häme county in Southern Finland was designated one of these Wellbeing counties, requiring it to take control of services previously offered by 11 different municipalities.  

“This was the largest reform in recent memory in Finland,” says Jarkko Enden, CTO at Nortal Finland.  

“The work force was moved from city- to county level, and an entirely new organization was created. The reform created enormous pressure, since the counties now had to do more with less money.”  

– Harri Halinen, Development Manager, IT, Kanta-Häme well-being county

As we embark on harnessing cloud technologies in our well-being county, our collaboration with Nortal and their experts has proven exceptionally pleasant and fruitful.

An atmosphere of trust

To do more with less required a modern, cloud-based solution, though that in no way was as simple as it may sound. The default “lift and shift” approach moves legacy systems to the cloud as they are, but there are several problems with this.  

“Some think lift and shift will introduce cost savings, but many find out there aren’t automatic benefits,” says Enden.  

“It can even cost you more if you don’t do it properly.”  

A second issue was that the platform needed to allow new applications to be built by a variety of independent vendors who would employ cutting-edge technology for new services, slowly allowing the strangulation of legacy systems. For example, legacy systems like finance, HR, and patient record systems will eventually be moved to the cloud, yet the platform also needs to allow for modernization like enabling video calls with customers, and the history of patient data stored in different systems needs to be easily accessible by customer support personnel. 

The project’s second phase established a centralized API management solution within the newly created environment, allowing for data to be published and stored in a controlled and secure manner via APIs. The APIs can be made accessible within the internal environment or even from the public internet – connecting on-premise systems to the cloud. For example, the Oma-Häme app, Kanta-Häme’s on-demand doctor service, leverages the new API layer to connect existing services and data sources directly to the application. This allows development to focus on building for the end-user, by ensuring the backend architecture is done right. 

Kanta-Häme turned to Nortal to build this most important part of its cloud transformation journey. Nortal had Anssi Pannula and Tuomo Hokkanen, two Cloud Architects with long Microsoft histories and Azure certifications. Although Nortal has many Microsoft experts, they also have a reputation for being cloud agnostic.  

“We’re often more in the role of consultants,” says Enden.  

Jarkko Enden

– Jarkko Enden, CTO at Nortal Finland

We use Google and Amazon, as well, but since we don't sell our own products, we're known for not trying to sell licenses and things customers don’t need or won’t use. That allows us to build real trust with our clients.

Constant innovation

While their cloud environment and its governance models will constantly evolve, the benefits are already apparent. The shared underlying infrastructure allows for the construction of innovative features by dozens of vendors, in a matter of hours instead of weeks. Security is ensured, privacy guaranteed, and performance enhanced without adding costs. 

It is far from complete — and, by design, never will be.  

“Pace-layered architecture recognizes that different parts of an organization’s IT landscape change at different rates,” says Enden.  

“The system we created is a place where Kanta-Häme will build and build and keep on building. It allows for constant innovation.” 

– Harri Halinen, Development Manager, IT, Kanta-Häme well-being county

The true value of expertise shines through, especially in tackling intricate technological challenges. A seasoned expert often finds solutions effortlessly, quickly and in cost effective way.

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