Case study: Bluecrest 

Private healthcare is a growing sector in the UK, offering a helpful alternative to NHS services that are increasingly stretched. Headforwards’ client and private provider, Bluecrest, established in 2012, offers affordable and accessible health assessments with follow-up advice and GP Helpline access to customers across the UK and Ireland.

From healthcare to healthtech

Bluecrest’s strategic plan is to establish themselves as a leading health technology provider, and following significant investment are executing a digital transformation strategy. 2019 saw the appointment of an experienced CTO who reviewed the capabilities and technical fit of the existing delivery function and IT platforms. As a result, they sought the experience and capabilities of a trusted and proven technology partner.

Headforwards’ engagement with Bluecrest started with a consultation process to provide an in-depth assessment of Bluecrest’s architecture, codebase, team skills and approach to delivery.

It was identified that Bluecrest needed to evolve from their existing print-focused platform to a modern, mobile and web-first health insights solution. The assessment also flagged that the way the team delivered could be improved, with support on their Agile journey ensuring they maximise the benefit of Agile processes and the value of being able to make regular changes and small, incremental deliveries of functionality.

Headforwards began working with Bluecrest more closely, via a small, multiskilled team. Currently the Headforwards team, working with Bluecrest to share knowledge and help them make decisions based on their technical strategy, comprise a Delivery Lead, three full-stack developers and a test engineer specialising in automation. The team includes also around 15 Bluecrest developers and testers. 

What tools or processes have helped the project?

Containerisation of the architecture into microservices de-couples areas of functionality. This therefore helps ensure that changes can be tested, and new code rolled out effectively and efficiently. Achieved using Kubernetes, this has been a key aspect of the work Headforwards have done with Bluecrest, and its implementation is on-going.

Increased test automation is another key aspect. The automated test suites in Cypress were expanded, and the ability introduced to transfer HL7 test files to the server from the test code directly, replacing a manual process. Database access for Cypress tests was added, benefitting the setting up and validation of test data. 

API snapshot tests were integrated into the smoke test pipelines that run for every new build, while new API load tests using Locust ensure reliability under high volume, essential for the roll-out of the new payment service.

What were the significant milestones in the success of the project?

Assessment results are handled via a web portal and a printed PDF is currently also posted to the Bluecrest customer. Headforwards have worked with Bluecrest to restructure this process from the bottom up, enabling new systems to be put in place for the frontend and for sending the results to be printed.

Customers access their results online via Bluecrest’s MyWellness portal, the new design of which was launched at the end of 2023. We consolidated how result data is processed and stored, creating a robust API which then allowed us to replace PDF generation with a more resilient 3rd party solution, implement trending in MyWellness and ensure results and ranges are identical regardless of where and how they are viewed.

Having more automated testing and being able to deploy containers rather than a single monolith were key enablers to streamlining the release process, which was reduced from perhaps 3-4 days, with considerable manual testing, to around half a day.

Any hurdles that had to be overcome?

Since Bluecrest are dealing with very sensitive data there are additional considerations that need to be made during the development and release process. All Bluecrest systems and processes must be compliant with, and auditable against, ISO and CQC standards, so areas such as data security and patient confidentiality must be considered at all stages.

What’s next for the project?

Headforwards are continuing to support Bluecrest’s journey from health assessor to health insights provider. We are working on the web and mobile presentation of health data and to increase the amount of data analysis to provide trends and insights that can allow Bluecrest customers to live health confident and also guide strategic decision making in the business.

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