The hospital's dedicated job scheduling application helps unify and manage its wide range of data warehousing and report delivery tasks.
By William Atkinson
Children's Hospital & Medical Center of Omaha, Neb., is the only full-service pediatric specialty health care center in Nebraska, providing care to more than 350,000 children each year.
The hospital's extraordinary patient load generates a lot of information. It is the responsibility of the IT staff to ensure the data’s timely delivery--and in a form usable to hundreds of workers in different departments of Children's Hospital.
Over the years, the IT department has engaged in a series of improvements, but the most-revised system during the last several years has been the business intelligence (BI) platform. "There was a time when only a few back-office team members were involved with BI," says Wendy Worthing, director of IT operations at Children's Hospital. "Not anymore. Everyone from finance, access, infection control and even c-level executives have begun using our business intelligence application to analyze, plan and report on various aspects of the hospital's performance."
As the hospital’s BI uses have grown, so has the need to pull and manage information from different sources. The hospital employs a number of mission-critical enterprise applications, including Eclipsys's Sunrise Clinical Manager, EpicCare Ambulatory EMR and Lawson Software's business process management suite.
Data from each of these applications, in various combinations, is fed into several data marts for use by Children’s Hospital's two primary BI applications, Crystal Reports and QlikTech's QlikView.
In the past, most of Children’s Hospital's data extraction, transformation and loading tasks were accomplished through a combination of manual operations and internally generated scripts. The hospital's data administrators used different basic job scheduling tools, including Cron on a Linux-based system, and a pair of database management systems, while Microsoft's SQL Server provided additional functionality.
Each approach had its limitations, though, and none could handle the multi-platform tasks that were required by Crystal Reports and QlikView.
Children’s Hospital looked at a number of dedicated job scheduling applications in order to unify and manage its wide range of data warehousing and report delivery. It eventually selected ActiveBatch Workload Automation from Advanced Systems Concepts. "What we liked about ActiveBatch was its ability to interface with a wide range of operating platforms, databases and applications," says Worthing. "While most of our packages run on Windows, we also use UNIX and Linux a lot. We realized ActiveBatch would integrate with all these platforms, allowing us to handle all our workflows, including non BI-related tasks, through one source."
Another challenge ActiveBatch addressed was the IT department’s previous inability to institute automatic restarts if a job failed. And one failed task would create a domino effect among the other jobs. Since there was no central monitoring capability, the IT department lacked a real-time ability to monitor a developing situation. IT would then have to follow the "breadcrumbs" to identify the failure point. ActiveBatch is able to eliminate latency between jobs, however, and assure that jobs run as scheduled.
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