This meeting focussed on the recent performance problems of EMISWeb
The company acknowledges they have recently been having significant problems with poor performance experienced by end users - crashes and slow running.
There was also a complete national outage for the first 2-3 hours of operations on Monday morning 19th April. This appears to have followed some work done with NHSD on the previous Friday 16th and detailed analysis is being undertaken to find out what happened. The communication from EMIS was lacking and again the company acknowledge this and it is also being examined in order to find a way to better communicate such problems in the future.
Regarding the ongoing performance issues, we heard that a large part of the present resources are being put into solving this.
In the last 2 weeks some crash reporting tools have been given to some badly hit practices. This is triggered after any hangs (blue circle of death) of more than 5 seconds and allows a memory dump to be sent as a zip file to EMIS for them to analyse the issues at the time of the crash. This has already revealed 4 major issues that the company were not aware of and they have instigated some fixes already which will be rolled out across the estate for everyone to benefit from.
EMIS will be deploying this tool in more practices and users hit by frequent hangs or crashes are advised to contact their regional account director who will be able to arrange this to be used in suitable cases. The more information that EMIS collect in this way, the more quickly the problems can be identified and fixed but clearly there is a volume issue they have to manage.
EMISWeb appears to be working well from the server end without any issues and this has been a difficulty for EMIS top understand what the end users are experiencing: the problems are complex and multi-factorial. Organisations vary greatly at local level and so it has been a major problem trying to identify where problems lie.
Often there are local infrastructure issues – network problems, hardware issues, firewall settings and so on. Then there is a huge number of new software interfaces placing demands on EMISWeb, which have increased rapidly since the start of the pandemic. This has thrown up new issues. One identified shortly before our meeting was the massive number of new Sharing Agreements in some areas to take account of PCN development and the new cross organisational working arrangements. These have been found unexpectedly to slow Tasks within EMISWeb and they are looking now to solve this particular issue.
The new memory dump facility is expected to show other hitherto unrecognized issues but also EMIS are developing a traffic-light ‘system health’ function which we discussed would best be embded into EMISWeb to show which parts of the system may be experiencing problems with a click to solve help facility eg to show if the firewall settings are optimal. Initially it will deployed as a web look-up facility. This will be incredibly useful as would give users power to understand what may be wrong with their systems possibly even in advance of problems revealing themselves, unlike the current need to contact the service desk at the point of a problem being noted – which many users have simply given up doing due to interrupting work or previous poor experiences (we did also discuss the need to improve aspects of this).
It is also true to say that many EMIS people are highly motivated and live, eat and breath EMISWeb and have been deeply upset by the present problems. They have been subjected to a lot of vitriol on the social media and it is both upsetting and unnecessary; they are doing their hardest to try to resolve these difficult and unforseen problems and they are confident they will succeed. We at the NUG give them our full support and thanks for their committment to helping us do our jobs better.
We are going to have more frequent meetings with EMIS until these serious problems have been fully addressed and we pressed them to communicate better with users and NUG members, which they are keen to do. Our next meeting will be in two weeks.
Alan Selwyn, for the NUG Committee