REVIEWER: Mark Smith, VP of IT for Athena Diagnostics.

BACKGROUND: Athena Diagnostics is a leading provider of advanced neurological diagnostic assays. Using innovative technologies, Athena Diagnostics provides neurologists and other physicians with diagnostic answers that improve the quality of healthcare for patients in a cost-effective manner.

PLATFORMS: HP Alpha running Tru64 UNIX and HP Microsoft server 2000.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Athena Diagnostics is committed to meeting the information requirements of its system users and the physicians and patients they serve in as short a time frame as possible. This can be particularly challenging in an environment that is characterized by extremely complex and specialized data, diverse data types and a wide variety of data sources. Adding to the challenge is the fact that the IT staff is relatively small, including just four developers. In 2004, Athena Diagnostics determined that a focus on integrating disparate systems and databases to leverage information enterprise-wide would be a significant step forward in reaching business and IT goals. After a rigorous evaluation process, InterSystems' Ensemble was chosen to enable the integration initiatives. In less than six months, the IT staff was able to develop and deploy three new Ensemble-based applications as well as a pilot project for a fourth system. The deployed applications include E-System Management Alarm, E-Letter Manager, and E-Data Coordination Manager. Ensemble's rapid integration, rapid composite application development and strong business process management (BPM) capabilities have already proven so successful that more than 20 additional Ensemble integration projects are planned for 2005.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Ensemble uniquely incorporates the functionality of an integration server, application server, high-performance object database and a unified development and management environment in a single, architecturally consistent product. Benefits already realized from the new application implementations include significantly improved data consistency, faster delivery of information to customers, reduced phone queries about test results, faster response to potential system problems and an overall increase in productivity of the laboratory technicians.

STRENGTHS: Ensemble offers full-spectrum integration with a unified graphical, XML- and code-based development environment that simplifies and accelerates business process modeling and automation. This environment made it possible to build, integrate and deploy applications in a matter of 3 to 4 months without any additions to the IT development staff. Other product strengths include a high-performance, distributed, extremely scalable, SQL-compliant object database that manages and stores meta data, messages and process state information without the cost and overhead typical of relational databases as well as customizable and extensible tools that provide rapid diagnostics and debugging information.

WEAKNESSES: Ensemble does not currently make it possible to render business process models directly in a PDF format for printing. Additionally, our developers would like to see code completion software added to the development environment to speed the development process even more, while enabling improved development accuracy. InterSystems plans to add both capabilities in 2005.

SELECTION CRITERIA: We reviewed multiple integration solutions. Selection criteria included the ability to enable rapid integration, high performance, a common and intuitive interface for all product functionality and a high level of cost-effectiveness. Ensemble met all of these requirements at a cost that was just 25 percent of the cost of some other integration products.

DELIVERABLES: The Ensemble-based system deliverables include automatic notification via cell phone messages if preset system parameters are exceeded, automated creation of letters delivering test results to Athena Diagnostics customers, and automated elimination of data inconsistencies from multiple internal customer databases.

VENDOR SUPPORT: InterSystems has an excellent track record of providing highly responsible support to us for our Caché database. We've found the same high level of support being delivered for the projects using the Ensemble integration platform.

DOCUMENTATION: Our developers find Ensemble documentation to be complete, easy to use and up to date.

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