Estonian IT news portal ITuudised asked ADM Cloudtech CEO Klemens Arro what our contribution has been to the fight against the pandemic in the United Kingdom.
How did this cooperation come to be?
Ever since we opened up our UK office, we have been actively working towards entering the healthcare sector. As is well known, it is quite a closed sector, which makes it difficult for newcomers to enter the field.
But as a result of long-term hard work by our UK and Estonian teams, we were able to prove ourselves, among others, to CSH Surrey, which operates hospitals in Surrey, a county that borders London. Since then, we have launched various exciting projects in cooperation with them – for example, we are helping them to migrate different services into the cloud, to digitalise their work processes and services, to modernise their data processing approach, and to create new solutions that would help them use big data more efficiently.
At the end of last year, we got short-term notice that the whole kingdom would start a mass vaccination programme, which meant that our client needed to quickly establish a mass vaccination centre.
Since we had been working together so well on the other projects, they turned to us and asked us to help them set everything up in the new building as well as to provide them continuous support afterwards to help them keep the centre running. Although we had next to no time for negotiations and preparations, we were still able to react operatively and quickly reached an agreement.
What kinds of services exactly is ADM providing to the Epsom Downs mass vaccination centre?
The Epsom Downs vaccination centre was created in December of last year in a racecourse centre that has a large capacity and is easily accessible but isn’t meant for the provision of medical services.
So, we started from the very beginning by setting up and configuring IT support systems. Our first tasks involved the creation of new temporary workplaces for healthcare workers along with the necessary IT equipment, and modelling people’s movements to avoid potential bottlenecks.
On a daily basis, our team deals with resolving any technical issues that may appear, providing technical customer support for the healthcare workers, maintaining and disinfecting the equipment, and onboarding new employees (the healthcare personnel is rotated almost every day).
Twice a day, we collect and review the statistics and then put together a list of recommendations on how to make the work in the centre even more efficient. We also resolve any problems that appear in the applications created for the national vaccination programme and we work on ensuring a stable and high-quality network connection as that is one of the most crucial IT components in a project as big as this.
If necessary, we help visitors book their next vaccination appointment correctly. The technical solutions that have been created during the current state of emergency have generally been created very quickly and they must be capable of handling huge workloads. In other words, plenty of surprises tend to pop up and a significant part our job is composed of ensuring that patient data is maintained properly and resolving any issues or, if required, escalating them to other NHS units.
Mass vaccination is a completely new experience for everyone, but of course the biggest pressure is on the healthcare workers. Whenever possible, we try to make their day a little easier by doing jobs that aren’t necessarily a part of our contract. But as long as they make someone else’s day a little better, we will do it. This includes things like helping visitors find wheelchairs, disinfectants, or the on-call doctor.
What kind of challenges has ADM had to face the most during this project?
There have been a lot of challenges on this project, starting from day one. The launch of the project alone was a huge challenge due to the time pressure – we had only days to build the complete infrastructure, create the necessary processes, get acquainted with the NHS’s requirements for the vaccination programme as well as their technical solutions, set up all of the equipment from laptops to scanners and information displays, train the healthcare workers etc.
Another big challenge was increasing the size of our team quickly and finding people with the right competencies at a time when the lack of labour force in IT was bigger than ever. We were able to put together the most critical part of the team in a couple of days and we recruited the rest of the experts within the first month.
Of course, every day brings different challenges with it, but thanks to our broad experience and strong team, nothing has been insurmountable so far.
How does providing IT support and services to Epson Downs differ from doing something similar in Estonia, e.g. in terms of regulatory requirements, the infrastructure, user training?
We are providing an ad hoc service in England on a scale that has never been done in Estonia. Considering that, it wouldn’t be correct to compare this particular project to IT support and services we provide in Estonia.
But if we look at the differences between the two countries in general, then implementing and using cloud services is a little easier in the UK and their healthcare sector than in Estonia. Our public sector still strongly believes that “if a server is physically in front of us, then it is more secure” but unfortunately, that is quite a one-dimensional approach to take in a three-dimensional world.
In the UK, the whole government – including the national healthcare sector – has been working towards the goal of making public cloud services work for them for years already.
When we look at Estonia, it may sometimes feel like our e-tiger has fallen asleep, but the strong e-country foundation we have enables us to develop new solutions more quickly, more easily, and more efficiently than it could be done in most other countries. For example, Estonia has set up the management, usage rules, and technical protocols for our personal and medical data across the country and between different institutions – this may not be the case in other countries.
How many people at ADM are working on the Epsom Downs project on a daily basis, including on the spot at the centre?
Since the Epsom Downs mass vaccination centre is working seven days a week, 12 hours a day, plus all the work done before and after the opening hours of the centre, then our people are there in rotations. We have six people the on-site team at Epsom Downs working full-time and a part-time quality control specialist who goes there a couple of times a week. Our back-office supports the team with any organisational, bureaucratic and other procedures that aren’t necessarily IT-related.
Are there any Estonian employees working at Epsom Downs or do you only have locals hired in the UK working on the project?
All the people working on-site have been hired in England. Our back-office is located in Estonia.
Read the interview published on the ITuudised portal why was ADM called to help the UK, what Estonia can learn from the organization of mass vaccination there, but also how IT procurements are carried out in the UK.