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New generation data platform futureproofs Clinical Practice Research Datalink

The Clinical Practice Research Datalink (CPRD) collects anonymised patient data from a network of GP practices across the UK. Primary care data are linked to a range of other health related data to provide a longitudinal, representative UK population health dataset to support public health and clinical studies. The data encompasses 42 million patient lives, including 13 million currently registered patients.

The opportunity

CPRD are in the process of digitising many of their existing processes, and part of this transformation included overhauling their database system. The current system is a very basic, aged CRM that allows researchers and pharmaceutical companies to input queries, select and purchase full sets of data. However, this isn’t fit for purpose for the following reasons:

  • Not all data is relevant for the user need as it is bought in bulk
  • There is no option to create bespoke data sets, tailored to each individual query
  • The system doesn’t drive the full value of the data leading to concerns that revenue won’t meet future business objectives
  • The system doesn’t scale horizontally so new data sources from other providers can’t quickly and efficiently be added 
  • The system is costly to run

The CPRD were looking for a Managed Professional Services supplier to redefine the current CRM platform and address these concerns to develop a new solution.

After presenting an options paper and business case in a competitive tendering process, RedRock were delighted to be awarded the project.

Our solution and approach

At RedRock we underpin all our Managed Professional Service engagements with the same core values:

  • Client Enablement
  • Teams of Excellence 
  • Impartiality

Each engagement is directly overseen by our Portfolio Director to ensure this. From the outset, our Portfolio Director collaborated with the CPRD to ensure we fully understood the project’s desired outcomes. This also included monitoring progress and performance, providing updates and support where necessary. 

Due to the large, quality resource pool we have built up at RedRock we are able to select specialist teams based on their ability to meet our client’s needs, rather than just utilise who we have available at the time.

With this in mind, and from our discussions with the CPRD, we were able to provide a very capable Enterprise Architecture and Data Management Consultant with vast experience across multiple industries in the following areas:

  • IT Application
  • Business Intelligence 
  • Analytics
  • Data Strategy
  • Solutions Delivery
  • Governance Frameworks

Our team engaged with the CPRD and all other stakeholders, holding a series of meetings and workshops to ensure everyone involved had chance to discuss the current issues and fully understood the aims of the project.

As a result of these discussions, our consultant proposed Microsoft Azure Data Lake as the best-fit solution to replace the existing CRM for several reasons:

  • Cloud-based platform – state-of-the-art technology ensures maintenance and progress are provided without any business downtime
  • Cost effective – no need to host own data centre and incur costs associated with it
  • Enterprise grade security, auditing and support
  • Agile – fast in terms of deployment, operation and scalability

RedRock was engaged to develop a long-term strategic plan for CPRD’s Data Research Environment and deliver a technical proof of concept using the Azure Data Lake platform to ensure it could meet the processing needs of CPRD. 

The proof of concept was organised by RedRock’s Data Management Consultant along with the internal team to enable upskilling along with delivering the desired outcomes. The proof of concept was a success provided the following:

  • Demonstrated that current workloads could be met in the cloud with faster processing power and reduced costs for comparable data volumes
  • Enough assurance that the platform would meet CPRD’s data privacy and protection regulations

This enabled the CPRD to create a business case to move forward with the new Data Research Environment.

Our consultant then moved onto the second phase of drafting the business case and data strategy for the following three years to enable the team to secure funding and gain approval from internal stakeholders. 

The strategic plan covered:

  • Current data processing that the CPRD undertakes 
  • Enabling on-boarding of other system providers’ data - a key part of the overall business strategy to provide a more valued dataset to the research and pharmaceutical sector
  • Proposed transition from being a data aggregator to an analytics service provider, to meet the regulations of allowing the data to remain on the new platform whilst meeting the high analytical demands from customers

Outcome

The CPRD business team has an approach that has been agreed with their stakeholders and a clear plan to enable the data services to transform to their business strategic goals.

CPRD’s technical team is now confident in using the Azure Data Lake platform to kick-start their development activities as a result of our team successfully transferring their knowledge and building a legacy. This has also enabled CPRD to adopt an Agile development methodology, with an increased emphasis on automation as was proven in the proof of concept. 

The new platform will also bring about the following business benefits:

  • Infinite scalability
  • Support for all data types
  • Traditional and advanced analytical use cases
  • Rapid new data source onboarding
  • Enable and empower all types of users
  • Pay-as-you-go infrastructure
  • Introduction of data catalogues

Alongside the adoption of the Azure Data Lake platform within CPRD, our approach was also showcased to wider MHRA stakeholders to facilitate their own adoption of moving to the cloud for data and analytical workloads. Quote – Dr Tim Williams

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