AWS Government, Education, & Nonprofits Blog

Grand River Hospital builds data lake on AWS, achieves “seamless business continuity”

doctor with arms crossed holding a stethescope

In 2019, Grand River Hospital turned to Amazon Web Services (AWS) to build the first AWS healthcare data lake in Canada. The data lake was built to house the hospital’s sensitive patient and administrative data while retiring its legacy hospital information systems, comprised of electronic patient record and other administrative systems. Grand River Hospital in Ontario, Canada is a 580-bed community hospital with a yearly operating budget of around $400 million CAD serving a community of 600,000-650,000 people.

Young Lee, vice president of quality, performance, and clinical systems transformation at Grand River Hospital, says, “Implementing a new hospital information system was exciting for us. We needed to be able to migrate three terabytes of data, which included patient data, while ending the use of nearly 27 applications. Legally, we must retain patient health data, and make it available in usable formats for future inquiries. We also needed the new hospital system and our future data management solution to serve as a strategic platform to get more out of our data, and we needed to do this efficiently and economically.”

When evaluating all of its options for cloud solution providers and potential partners to help build the data lake, Grand River Hospital ultimately chose AWS for scalability, cost structure, and experience and Deloitte as an implementation partner. “Through the procurement process, we shortlisted a number of options for cloud providers, and ultimately determined we needed a provider who could give us the best value in terms of technology capabilities, scalability, cost, service, and relevant experience to the Canadian health marketplace. We have legal and ethical obligations as it relates to our data. We had to pick a provider we could trust,” says Young.

Security was also top-of-mind when choosing to work with AWS. Young says, “AWS demonstrated a strong commitment to the Personal Health Information Protection Act (PHIPA) and was able to demonstrate their commitment and compliance. This was a big factor in our decision. AWS was able to meet our need to take the legacy system’s data and put it into an environment where we could access what we need with the security we required. In ensuring our ability to meet these requirements, it was refreshing to work with the AWS legal team and to see how knowledgeable they were of the Canadian and Ontario market. It made the relationship open and collaborative.”

Lessons learned from building a data lake on AWS

Young says Grand River Hospital always has its long-term goals at the center of its vision, “We always think of our data as an asset. It would have been easy for us to park the data somewhere, but if we’re going to position the organization and advance our ability to move forward with population health, integrated care, drive continued innovation – and really capitalize on our data to generate the necessary insights – we need it to be useable.” It was important for the team to de-silo the data to unlock future possibilities. Services used to build the hospital’s data lake included Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) as the heart of the data lake, Amazon S3 Glacier for archival, AWS Glue for data cataloging and transformation, and AWS Database Migration Service (AWS DMS) for migrating data from legacy commercial databases.

With their legacy on-premises systems, the data was not readily accessible and useable in the same way it is today. Young notes, “As we look to the future, we are committed to providing a platform that contains not only legacy data, but also new data from multiple systems and sources. I was extremely impressed to see how AWS worked with our partner, Deloitte. Working with AWS and Deloitte, we were able to meet our deadlines on budget.”

Read more stories about analytics, healthcare, and AWS in Canada on the AWS Public Sector Blog. Check out our case study with OTN and read how Vancouver General Hospital and University of British Columbia use Amazon Comprehend Medical.