How Schuberg Philis securely and compliantly enabled COVID mass testing in just two weeks

Case study
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The COVID-19 pandemic caused a sea change in how the world mobilizes people, processes, and technology for the good of society. Wiser if not wearier since COVID, governments and their operating partners have learned a lot about the need for swift, scalable IT solutions to help the public deal with crises and prepare for future ones.

In late fall 2020, it was clear that winter in the Netherlands, like much of Europe, would give way to months of resurging COVID-19 infections. To keep the economy open, employer demands for rapid testing were increasing and so the Dutch government mandated a foundation to organize such facilities nationwide. This foundation needed a partner to host, manage, and continuously deploy improvements on an application processing these rapid test results. And an unprecedented challenge: this environment had to be ready within two weeks to meet the target opening for the first COVID mass testing pavilion.

After the Dutch foundation established the mass rapid testing facilities, it was handed over to GGD GHOR. GGD GHOR Nederland is the public health and safety organization in the Netherlands.

The organization needed a solution that would enable its COVID testing process to run with optimal efficiency from the moment lab workers placed an individual’s sample in a test tube to the point they registered the result in the government’s database. The solution had to accommodate hardware, including laptops, printers, and scanners, while processing the lab data accurately, securely, and anonymously. Speed was of the essence.

Soundly and rapidly processing personal data during a health crisis is essential to a democratic government’s duty of care. Having an IT partner that made daily work simpler, faster, and thus less taxing for the lab workers would spare critical time and money.

“At the onset of the COVID crisis, we needed to test as many people as possible as quickly possible. The Schuberg Philis team immediately understood this urgency. They unlocked all the right tools and people to respond to our IT demands and wholeheartedly support our mission-critical process.””

Anjo Grakist, Project manager, GGD GHOR

An important starting point was exploring with the lab workers what they felt they needed. Guided by that information and based on already existing proof-of-value code for the needed application, we designed a web application environment that fully optimized the lab workers’ user experience. The AWS public cloud let us rapidly and inexpensively create a container-hosting environment as part of the infrastructure to host the application. In turn, the application could generate records compatible with the national CoronIT database. The front-end framework we chose accelerated the application’s response time while enabling quicker development. Two weeks later, the application was up and running 24/7 in a highly available, highly secured environment with a monitoring system, central logging, and central auditing. We also implemented a two-factor authentication portal for administrator access into the environment and extra protection on the application, secured by a newly built private key infrastructure. To ensure the solution was completely secure, we had two external audits conducted and passed successfully. We then joined GGD GHOR’s regular meetings to understand unfolding challenges and proactively propose solutions, thereby delivering 31 releases in 1.5 years, which helped further improve the secure testing operations.

This was one of the fastest projects we undertook. Once running, the new environment enabled changes to be deployed in a mere couple of minutes. Features were developed and delivered within two-week sprints. In fact, the customer developed such profound trust in us that if a change was urgent, we were free to do a middle-of-the-day deployment. Although the government has since closed the GGD-GHOR testing centers, in the span of two years, our solution supported 21 locations across the Netherlands and their nearly 1,000 lab workers. It processed nearly 800,000 test results. In the whole production cycle of the application, we recorded only 10 minutes of downtime due to an AWS Relational Database Service-related incident.

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Want to know more?

Contact Wendy Stijfs.