16 Nov 2023
The new Brussels University Hospital really has been through the mill lately.
Claire Dessaer, HR Manager Remuneration and Operational Services
In the process of upgrading its IT and HR management system, a cyber-attack left the teams unable to complete its payroll procedures.
Amidst the panic, the hospital found a true partner in a crisis: Popay.
Three Belgian hospitals merge to create H.U.B
In January 2022, it became official: three Brussels hospitals joined forces to create Hôpital Universitaire de Bruxelles (H.U.B), a world-class benchmark in healthcare, in the heart of the Brussels region.
The three hospitals – Hôpital Érasme (including its technical operating units, trauma centre and geriatrics rehabilitation clinic), Hôpital des enfants Reine Fabiola, and Institut Jules Bordet – each have their own distinctive features and embrace a common objective: to combine healthcare with accessibility for all and to aim for excellence, from diagnosis to treatment.
Their objectives can be broken down into three major fields:
- Optimum care: bringing together experts in all areas of health, H.U.B offers the highest quality of healthcare, accessible to all
- World-class research: U.B is a benchmark in the fight against disease in all areas of health, bringing together cutting-edge research centres
- Teaching & training: H.U.B offers the highest quality of teaching for all healthcare professions.
A colossal and ambitious project, requiring the adaptation of IT tools to coalesce human resources management into one centralised system, involving the migration of the details of over 6,000 members of staff. The process was complex but absolutely vital.
Combining three IT systems into one
Quickly enough, it became necessary to combine all HR data into one single IT solution. Several studies were conducted, and the teams picked Pléiades – the system used by Hôpital Érasme – as their shared HR management tool.
After contacting several specialists, H.U.B decided to work with Popay, a payroll digitisation solution. The company then took over the HR data migration project, with an estimated lead time of 11 months.
The initial groundwork involved setting up the project team and bringing together the key stakeholders (internal team, contributors from Sopra – the company that developed Pléiades, and Popay, which provided project management support), with a view to transferring the information from Bordet’s ARNO system to the new infrastructure.
Despite its scale, the expert teams fully grasped the project, started work on the initial data analysis and were ready to implement the migration.
A cyber-attack jeopardises a vital project
Until Friday 10 March 2023, everything was going ahead according to schedule. But then a cyber-attack wreaked havoc in the data migration project, as well as affecting the work of all the teams and stakeholders involved.
The cyber-attack targeted the IT system at Hôpital Saint-Pierre, where the data from Institut Jules Bordet was hosted. In a matter of moments, both the HR management system and all their other IT infrastructure was compromised. Patient data, prescriptions and test results – all a very high priority – needed to be recovered and secured as quickly as possible.
With HR data at the bottom of the pecking order, how could they go about paying staff and managing contracts, with no visibility as to when the affected data could be recovered? How could they navigate this crisis when they still had no idea when they could regain access to the system, even after four days of hard work by IT experts and the Federal Prosecutor’s Office?
That’s when the Head of HR at Brussels University Hospital, Claire Dessaer, decided to take action. She approached Popay, and when she saw their manager and project lead Dorien Gielen’s eyes light up, she immediately felt understood and supported: there was no choice but to launch a daring rescue operation and radically speed up the initial data migration project.
Popay orchestrates an unprecedented and bespoke rescue
It then became Popay’s mission to do everything they could to migrate the data from Jules Bordet to Pléiades successfully and in record time, supported by their Popay.Unify solution. A highly complex project, not without a touch of insanity, but one that had become a challenge requiring speedy resolution.
Dorien Gielen coordinates the teams like a great orchestral conductor, with her technicians working on collecting incomplete data from the Jules Bordet system, then cleaning, categorising and modifying them for compatibility with the new infrastructure, completely unfamiliar to the team until then.
For her part, Claire Dessaer manages her internal teams and checks all the incoming data, systematically and empirically. “We wouldn’t have made it without the Popay technical team’s responsiveness and support with co-ordination”, she admitted.
No less than 1,896 patients’ data needed to be transferred with the utmost urgency. “The cyber-attack forced us to analyse, create templates and port each staff member’s data to the new system, Pléiades, in the space of three weeks. Usually, this would have been impossible, but our tool and commitment resulted in the completion of a high-quality data migration operation, even within such a tight timeframe”, explained Gielen.
A success story in record time
Eventually, the collaboration and hard work between H.U.B, Sopra and Popay paid off. “This project was supposed to take 10 to 12 months, but we got through it within 5 weeks: a true success story!” noted Dessaer. Indeed, with the support of their unique tool, Popay.Unify, the company’s teams managed to migrate all the data that was needed to the new system for H.U.B staff to be paid on time.
“No one could even suggest a single one of the payments didn’t go through as they should have; they certainly did, as it was clear to us from the outset that this was what had to happen. Step by step, we continue to iron out the few issues that still arise, with the same intention of pursuing the development of the tools and improving the quality of the service we provide.”
The teams at H.U.B are very grateful to Popay for their unfailing support and assistance in this ambitious project and have praised their responsiveness and flexibility in times of crisis. In the words of Claire Dessaer, “they gave us everything they could, and more. I genuinely felt that Popay wanted to find solutions, suggest ideas, and were extremely supportive all along the way”.
The upshot of the experience for Dessaer was a great sense of pride, a wealth of joyful exchanges between people, as well as her utmost gratitude and confidence vis-à-vis Popay, a company she is very glad to recommend to anyone requiring a smooth and thorough data migration. They continue to work together to this day, transferring to the Pléiades system the data from the very last entity, Hôpital des enfants.