3M HIS is not in the IT business. Rather, we are a healthcare-analytics company. We are getting out of IT operations, and by going to AWS, we can focus our R&D team on the science of healthcare. For us that means analytics rather than IT, enabling us to attack the healthcare industry’s cost and quality challenges.
David Frazee Chief Technology Officer
Learn how 3M Health Information Systems uses AWS to scale and process millions of electronic records per day.

3M Health Information Systems (3M HIS), based in Salt Lake City, Utah, is one of the world’s largest providers of software for the healthcare industry. Hospitals throughout the United State use the company’s 3M 360 Encompass System to integrate their clinical documentation and coding workflows. The organization provides solutions in more than 20 countries and 7,500 hospitals worldwide.

3M HIS's software solutions are a critical part of the healthcare-system workflow for many organizations. “Our applications are the glue between patients, healthcare providers, and payers,” says David Frazee, chief technology officer of 3M Health Information Systems. “A core part of the solution uses natural-language processing to automatically create medical codes, which are critical to both clinicians and the business of healthcare delivery. Providers use our software solutions to efficiently manage their revenue-cycle operations, but can also use the results to identify deficiencies in clinical documentation and automatically recommend measures to eliminate them.”

Previously, 3M HIS relied on multiple IT centers and collocated environments to support its software solutions. However, this approach led to major challenges. For example, certain activities required more compute and storage capacity at certain hours of the day. “We spend approximately 18 hours per day processing at peak capacity,” says Rick Austin, manager of Advanced Technology at 3M Health Information Systems. “During the remaining six hours per day, as well as weekends, we were processing significantly off-peak, but still had to manage, maintain, and pay for the underlying unused compute environment during those times. We lacked the ability to efficiently support that ebb and flow associated with our various workloads.”

3M Health Information Systems also needed the agility to develop and deploy new applications faster. “Our ability to adequately support our researchers, scientists, and developers was not where it needed to be,” Austin says. “We wanted to lay the foundation necessary to reduce or eliminate barriers needed to increase the speed of innovation at HIS.”

3M Health Information Systems determined that moving to the cloud was the best way to address its challenges. “We knew the cloud was the only way to get the scalability, speed, and security our customers expect from 3M,” says Austin. The organization considered building its own private cloud and using solutions from cloud providers, including Amazon Web Services (AWS). After a thorough analysis, 3M HIS found AWS to have the best infrastructure and performance to meet its needs. “One of our key processes operated 20 percent more efficiently on AWS than on any other platform, without changing our code,” Frazee says.

After choosing AWS, 3M HIS began migrating several important applications to the AWS Cloud. The organization worked closely with AWS Professional Services, which provided the expert architecture and configuration guidance required to accelerate the migration. “AWS Professional Services played an important role in the migration,” says Austin. “It’s one thing to provision servers, but it’s another to configure an environment that complies with strict security requirements. This would have been very difficult without the assistance from AWS Professional Services.”

3M HIS's applications run on hundreds of Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) instances and use Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3). 3M HIS also uses Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS), which helps the organization operate and scale its relational database deployments.

Additionally, 3M HIS leverages the AWS-managed CodeCommit source-control service to host private Git repositories, AWS CodeDeploy to automate deployment, and AWS CloudFormation to automate infrastructure—all supporting a DevOps culture that includes using AWS CodePipeline to manage its continuous integration and continuous delivery deployment workflows. 3M HIS also meets a portion of its regulatory and security requirements by using AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM).

Although 3M Health Information Systems employed a multi-cloud strategy and continues to host some applications in other data centers, it plans to rely more on AWS in the coming months. “We will move an additional dozen applications and services to AWS in the coming months,” says Frazee. “We see the cloud as the safest, most scalable, and most cost effective place to operate.”

By running its applications on AWS, 3M HIS can easily scale up or down without needing to acquire and provision servers months in advance. “The server-provisioning process used to take us 10 weeks or more, but it’s down to minutes using AWS,” says Austin. “That gives us the flexibility to support the scaling events we experience several times per day. We pay for what we need when we need it. We no longer need to pay for and manage unnecessary peak compute capacity. We recently had a customer request a large volume of processing, and we simply spun up an additional 200 instances of our service on AWS. When the large workload completed, we just turned off those instances.”

The organization is also able to innovate faster by using AWS services to increase developer efficiency. “We can more easily and quickly build our application environments and manage our applications by using AWS CodeDeploy and CodeCommit,” says Austin. “We are fully supporting our continuous integration and deployment pipelines by relying on AWS, and that has really boosted our development efficiency. Using AWS, we’ve gone from deployments taking six weeks to one per week, and very soon we expect that to be multiple deployments per day.”

As it continues to migrate more of its applications to AWS, 3M HIS expects to create and implement innovative new healthcare software for its customers. “3M HIS is not in the IT business. Rather, we are a healthcare-analytics company,” says Frazee. “We are getting out of IT operations, and by going to AWS, we can focus our R&D team on the science of healthcare. For us that means analytics rather than IT, enabling us to attack the healthcare industry’s cost and quality challenges.”

Learn more about how AWS can help you manage your healthcare applications.