Seamless outsourcing to CGI keeps Montreal hospitals
Nothing is more mission-critical than a hospital’s information systems—especially
those used to identify thousands of patients, order their lab tests, deliver
the results, and meet their complex dietary requirements.
Recognizing this fact, the member hospitals of the McGill University
Health Centre went looking for someone to help keep their information
systems rock-solid while squeezing more out of their tight budgets. Who
did they choose? CGI.
The Challenge Over the years 1991 to 1997,
five Montreal hospitals joined forces to create the
McGill University Health Centre (MUHC). With 11,000 employees, over 900
practicing physicians, nearly 1,300 research staff, and a combined budget
of nearly CAD $500 million per year, the MUHC is now regarded as one of
the greatest centres of excellence in clinical care, research, and teaching
Computer systems are a vital part of the MUHC’s operations. But
as a publicly funded institution, the MUHC has to watch every penny. Its
key IT challenge has therefore been to maintain high system reliability
while maximizing cost efficiency. The late 1990s also presented an additional
challenge: making a smooth transition to Y2K.
For help in meeting these challenges, the MUHC has turned to CGI, with
its proven track record of success in the health care sector.
The Strategy Early on, the MUHC decided
that the best way to contain IT costs while maintaining high reliability
would be to outsource all its mainframe and related WAN operations to
CGI and write demanding service quality standards into the contract.
Outsourcing contains costs in at least two ways. First, CGI’s Montreal
data center has backup power generators, redundant power and telephone
feeds, a halon fire-control system, and extensive security. By outsourcing
to CGI, the MUHC gets the full benefit of these facilities while sharing
their cost with the other CGI clients who use them.
Second, when the MUHC needs experts for an IT project, CGI can assign
their own specialists for the project’s duration, so that MUHC does
not have to hire them permanently in-house.
All these efficiencies mean that the MUHC can obtain data processing
and network maintenance services from CGI at lower cost than the MUHC
could achieve in-house. Meanwhile, CGI’s facilities and its contractual
commitments to the MUHC ensure bullet-proof 24/7 reliability for the MUHC’s
In addition, when the MUHC needs to enhance its systems to keep pace
with evolving technologies, CGI’s people and its modern IT infrastructure
greatly facilitate the process. During preparations for Y2K, for example,
CGI’s experts helped the MUHC make extensive changes in their IT
hardware, networks, system software, and applications. The two partners
coordinated their efforts closely, sharing information every step of the
Number of users: 7,000
Systems supported: Patient Index; Admitting/Transfer/Discharge;
Medical Records; Order Entry and Results (for lab tests and radiology);
HR; Payroll; Accounting and Finance; Decision Support System for case
System service quality: no more than
3 hours non-consecutive non-planned downtime per month
The Results “An outsourcing agreement
is a bit like getting married,” says Mr. Jean Huot, CIO of the MUHC.
“The most important thing is to show understanding on both sides.”
Since he became CIO in 1998, Huot has worked to clarify expectations
and minimize misunderstandings, and today he says, “I’m highly
satisfied with the level of service provided to us and very happy with
the attention that we receive.”
As for Y2K, “It was a serious issue for us, but there was a good
commitment from everyone, and it all worked out well. I stayed up all
night on December 31, 1999 with staff from the MUHC and CGI, watching
for any problems. But the only hiccups were a couple of printers that
temporarily wouldn’t print.”
Repeat business is the best measure of success. And the MUHC has been
so pleased with its outsourcing decision that it has renewed its contract
with CGI to the end of 2003. Over the coming years, CGI expects to work
closely with the MUHC to help it define and migrate to a new IT infrastructure
for what will surely become Canada’s most modern health care facility.