In August 2007, Florida hospital hired a "rock star" physician. With this hire, a series of events was triggered that would end up with Drupal (news, site) hosting over 125 department and team intranet sites, over 40 externally-facing marketing sites and a growing number of other applications. Want to know more? Read on.

Florida Hospital

Florida Hospital is a massive faith-based non-profit with eight campuses in central Florida. They have over 2,000 beds, around 19,000 employees and treat over 1 million patients annually. This is an organization with US$ 3 billion in annual revenue. These folks don't mess around with solutions that aren't solutions.

The Problem Mounts

The hospital's Internet strategy is driven by marketing and PR. According to David Oakley, Manager, Online Strategy: Florida Hospital Experience Network, in 2003 a vendor convinced the folks in marketing that it was time to purchase a web server and build their own websites. After purchasing the server, they went to IT and weren't well received. Their new server ended up living elsewhere, outside the official hospital network.

Once their server was up and running they had an ad agency build 10 different sites for key service lines. The campuses saw those sites and wanted their own, and soon they found themselves with 20 to 25 sites. There was were some serious problems, though. The sites were in a proprietary CMS with static web pages, and they were being nickeled and dimed to death every time they wanted to make a change.

The situation took so much effort to manage that they had a full-time employee dedicated just to managing the efforts of getting the agency to make the changes. Meanwhile, more internal groups wanted sites.

At this point, the hospital hired a "rock star" physician and part of the process involved a heavy focus on web marketing. They changed interactive marketing agencies to what turned out to be a Drupal shop. The resulting Drupal 5 site was their most successful property to date which caused more and more internal groups to want to follow along.

By 2008 they were spending US$ 700,000 annually for what amounted to 12 websites and 5,000 hours of work. It turned out that for that same amount of money they could have three full-time employees do the work internally. Essentially, the interactive agency priced themselves out of business.

How Drupal Got In The Door

At this point they developed a four-pronged "in-source" strategy:

  • Reduce dependency on outside resources
  • Maximize their investments
  • Reduce expenses
  • Increase revenue

Florida Hospital is a heavy user of enterprise software from vendors like Microsoft, Sun and Oracle. When it came to evaluating a Web CMS, products such as SharePoint (news, site), Liferay and Alfresco's (news, site) were all suggested as alternatives.

However, in discussions among their own team and the intranet team, who turned out to be in the market for replacing the proprietary CMS they were using, they kept turning to Drupal. Reasons included:

  • They were already quite successful with Drupal
  • Drupal was cheaper even when just looking at the infrastructure required to support the CMS, rather than comparing free to a commercial offering
  • There's commercial and community support available
  • It's mature
  • It's staff-able, as in they could retrain or hire people to work on it
  • It's extendable if they can't find support for a feature they need
  • It's scalable
  • "There's a module for that"
  • It's search marketing-friendly

Positioning the department as an internal interactive agency ("The Experience Network"), Oakley's department bills at 80% of market rates, offering an overall cost savings to the organization.


These days, Oakley has a 9-person team. They create revenue-generating marketing sites that directly lead to appointment bookings and more. In the last 12 months they've established a world-class hosting environment, built 29 Drupal-based projects, migrated 12 Drupal sites from the agency to their in-house environment, produced US$1 million in insourced development and reduced outsourced development from 100% to 20%.

And let's not forget the intranet team. Rick Mann, IT Manager of Business Applications and the Intranet Web Team, had his small team of 1 to 3 people take 80 very dated and inconsistent department sites off of the old, end of life proprietary CMS and completely update them for Drupal. Now they have more than 125 department and team sites running in Drupal with 140 users trained not only in how to use the interface, but also how to think about audience and other issues in web development.

In the meantime, the intranet team realized that a number of other applications they would have written in .NET would be faster to build in Drupal. They built a clinician forms interface, a medication use reference for the pharmacy, an institutional review board (committee process) tool, a finance wiki and a radiology team site with special features.

Ironically, the hospital's main site,, still runs using .NET. No one internally has paid yet to have it moved. But even this cobbler's child will get its own shoes as soon as they get the breath to handle it.

For details on modules used and other information, watch the full presentation here. So far they're managing to get session slides and audio up within 24 hours of the presentations, well done!