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Public cloud makes secure PCR testing possible

PCR test swab against blue background
In the lab and test center: Carry out PCR tests reliably with the Open Telekom Cloud.

In this article you will read about,

  • how IT specialist FORSIT developed a software platform for PCR and rapid testing within a short time,
  • how scalable resources from the Open Telekom Cloud ensure the reliable operation of the platform,
  • and how the tests can be carried out securely and in compliance with data protection regulations.

Antigen, antibody, or PCR tests: COVID-19 tests are considered an important means of containing the coronavirus pandemic. They also play a central role in the German government's strategy. While testing capacities in Germany were around 350,000 per week at the beginning of the crisis in spring 2020, up to 2.3 million tests per week were possible by March, according to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI). But not all tests are the same. PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests are considered particularly reliable. Unlike antibody tests, for example, the laboratories examine mouth, nose, or throat swabs of the persons tested for gene sequences that are typical for SARS-CoV-2.

Rapid COVID-19 tests for all

In order to make it possible to carry out PCR tests quickly and uncomplicatedly outside of doctors' offices, the laboratory network CBTmed together with the analytical service provider Eurofins Genomics opened 15 PCR test centers in Bonn, Düsseldorf, Cologne, and Troisdorf last December. "For just under 50 euros, anyone can get tested there. The result usually follows within 24 hours by SMS or e-mail. Since mid-March, we have also been offering free rapid tests there," says Johannes Kruppenbacher, MD, head of the Center for Blood Coagulation Disorders and Transfusion Medicine (CBT).

The Bonn-based FORSIT Group provided the IT support for the project – and with an ambitious schedule. Since the PCR tests had to be possible in time for Christmas, the IT service provider developed a responsive web presence within a few weeks, including a connected software platform with which the test processes could be handled digitally.

In a short time, we implemented a flexible platform for medical processes, results generation and signing, which is now used at numerous COVID-19 test sites and laboratories. The entire operation takes place in the Open Telekom Cloud.

– FORSIT Group Managing Director Matthias Piksa

When registering for the PCR test, users provide personal data. Therefore, the public-cloud solution used had to comply with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). In terms of data protection and security, the IT specialist relies on the Open Telekom Cloud, where all data remains in the European or, if desired, the German legal area. "We also knew from previous projects that the Open Telekom Cloud offers all the necessary cloud services and resources. And that these are easy to manage thanks to the OpenStack architecture. All reasons why we decided against using a US hyperscaler in the project," says Piksa.

Flexible and scalable test platform

The cloud-based software platform can handle several thousand PCR tests a day. If the number of accesses to the servers increases at short notice, such as before public holidays or the start of the vacation season, FORSIT can scale the platform easily, quickly, and securely. The Open Telekom Cloud’s high-performance data centers ensure sufficient computing services, storage space, and the fail-safety of the solution.

The cloud strategy is paying off: In the meantime, FORSIT has already expanded the software platform several times. Since mid-March, CBTmed and Eurofins Genomics have been offering free rapid antigen testing to citizens via another website. They also enable COVID-19 testing for companies that regularly have their workforces tested for the virus, including for example several airlines. And for public authorities such as the city of Troisdorf, which has its administrative staff and employees in municipal operations tested via the platform.

Anonymity is ensured

Since going live in December 2020, PCR tests have been running smoothly via the FORSIT platform and in the background via the Open Telekom Cloud. The processes are as follows: Those looking to be tested register on the website with their personal data and mobile number and select an appointment, so there is no waiting time on site. For security reasons, additional verification takes place: the user receives an SMS with a link to be confirmed and then a QR code with which the medical staff in the test centers can identify him or her. The assignment of the same QR code to his sample enables completely anonymous processing in the laboratory. Within 24 hours, the tested person receives both the result and the invoice via another link by SMS or mail. If desired, the COVID-19 test result can be officially certified and used for air travel, for example.

But what happens if a test comes back positive? There is a process for that, too. Via a fax interface, the platform forwards positive test results directly to the responsible authorities. In order to be able to assign the responsible health office to each postal code, FORSIT has integrated corresponding data from the RKI.

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