BACKGROUND: Hartford Hospital, a member of the Hartford Health Care Corporation, is one of the largest teaching hospitals in New England. Managers from 17 departments within the hospital handle an array of critical data ­ from inventory and billing systems to transplant donor availability. With a medical staff of more than 800 doctors, therapists and dentists, the hospital includes a mental health facility, a long-term care unit and the only helicopter ambulance program in Connecticut.

PLATFORMS: The hospital has deployed English Wizard on Windows 95. Clients access data in Access 2.0, Access 97 and Sybase System 11.5 databases.

PROBLEM SOLVED: In order to achieve Y2K compliance, Hartford Hospital's IT department needed to review and convert thousands of independent, data-intensive systems scattered throughout the hospital and its satellite facilities. In addition to managing the large volume and tight time frame associated with these conversions, the IT department also needed to ensure that medical and administrative personnel maintained access to mission-critical information. The fact that different departments used different terminologies to describe their data and that users had little technical understanding of database structures further complicated the matter. Consequently, the hospital was seeking an intuitive, user-friendly tool that could be easily customized to meet the varying needs of each department and its users. Upgrading the hospital's existing query tools would have required a significant expenditure. Instead, using English Wizard, Hartford Hospital was quickly and easily able to build customized dictionaries for each department that supported a wide variety of department- and user-specific terminology.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: A conversion tool was used to interpret the hospital's existing meta data repository, generate English Wizard dictionaries for each department and populate them with many of the values, synonyms and prescripted questions stored in the legacy system. Because English Wizard allowed users to ask their questions directly, in plain English, users were able to be productive almost immediately. English Wizard's natural language queries and user-friendly customization tools provide timely, "self-service" access to data with minimal support from IT.

STRENGTHS: The product's natural language capabilities have made it easier for individual departments to customize their terminology and standardize routine questions. English Wizard's graphical user interface also received high marks from users who found the product significantly easier to use than the existing character-based query software. The intuitive GUI virtually eliminates the learning curve for users.

WEAKNESSES: Users would like the product to offer a broader range of formatting options for query output.

SELECTION CRITERIA: After performing a strategic review of its existing data warehousing software, Hartford Hospital realized that to become Y2K compliant they would need to migrate their large databases ­ which contain highly sensitive medical information ­ in an efficient manner. Users also needed to be able to access that data in real time through querying tools that could be used easily and efficiently by the hospital's 5,000 employees ­ all of whom had varying levels of computer skills.

DELIVERABLES: English Wizard gave users the independence to access the information they were each looking for while preserving existing data structures. Employees were able to analyze information in their customized departmental databases ­ as well as enterprise-wide databases ­ much more easily.

VENDOR SUPPORT: The hospital has received strong vendor support. Linguistic Technology has provided timely trouble-shooting assistance with challenging questions that have been raised by sophisticated users.

DOCUMENTATION: In general, user questions have been minimal despite the increase in the number and diversity of users. Employees find English Wizard highly intuitive and tend to seek assistance through on-line help functions. Queries related to database access have been virtually nonexistent since the implementation of the product. As a result, the IT staff has been able to devote more of their time to additional Year 2000 conversion projects while increasing user satisfaction.

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