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Improving Healthcare with Business Intelligence

  • June 01 2004, 1:00am EDT

CATEGORY: Business Intelligence

REVIEWER: Jan Lethen, director of knowledge management for AdvancePCS.

BACKGROUND: AdvancePCS is the nation's leading provider of health improvement services. AdvancePCS offers health plans a wide range of health improvement products and services designed to improve the quality of care delivered to health plan members and manage costs. AdvancePCS is ranked by Fortune magazine as one of America's 100 fastest-growing public companies and is included on the Forbes Platinum 400 list of best big companies. AdvancePCS earned the number three spot on the Barron's 500 list of best performing companies. Note: AdvancePCS was acquired by Caremark in March 2004.

PLATFORMS: Windows 2000, Microsoft IIS and SQL Server, Oracle data warehouse, Sun.

PROBLEM SOLVED: We were looking to consolidate our reporting solution into one integrated platform, which required replacing a variety of a competitor's tools, while also enhancing the user experience. With MicroStrategy's platform, MicroStrategy 7i, AdvancePCS management, clinical pharmacists, health plan providers and other healthcare practitioners analyze billions of pharmaceutical claims contained in a 10-terabyte data warehouse in order to make critical decisions that improve healthcare outcomes and lower pharmaceutical costs while protecting individual privacy. In addition, the consolidated system, named Web-based ReSolve, puts more analysis capabilities in the hands of the users, which provides customers with faster response times to their questions while reducing the burden on our internal support team.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Our past solution required that users had full software installs on their desktop. With the MicroStrategy Web interface, centralized management is simple, eliminating the need for costly site visits while offering more analysis capabilities. The intuitive browser-based interface has made our MicroStrategy applications very accessible to end users and, consequently, increased the overall success of our implementation. With more than 99 percent of our 2,200 users accessing the system via the Web, the thin Web client reduces our overall administration because our users can access their reports from the Web while incurring no security breaches and maintenance headaches associated with software downloads. Via the Web, users enjoy robust drill-anywhere functionality, allowing maximum flexibility in exploratory analysis.

STRENGTHS: MicroStrategy's greatest strength is in addressing the diverse needs of our users by delivering the full spectrum of BI functionality - standard report consumption, slice-and-dice functionality, investigative discovery and ad hoc analysis - in one integrated platform over a zero-footprint Web browser client. In addition, MicroStrategy is optimized for query management against very large databases. With more than one hundred queries running at any time against a billion-row fact table, efficient use of data warehouse resources is critical. MicroStrategy generates efficient SQL and allows for fine tuning (through VLDB properties) to get the most out of our data warehouse. AdvancePCS found that administering security on HIPAA-constrained healthcare data to a variety of users required a system with considerable flexibility. MicroStrategy enables this through object-level security options, reducing maintenance requirements.

WEAKNESSES: Some of our large file downloads would bog down the Web server, requiring us to customize a solution using FTP.

SELECTION CRITERIA: There are two primary reasons that we selected MicroStrategy - its integrated platform over a zero-footprint Web browser and its scalability to meet the needs of a large user base and a large database. Competing vendors did not provide us with the high degree of flexibility in ad hoc reporting given our extensive data model coupled with the large volume of data. In addition, other leading tools required a plug-in for Web use. We evaluated creating an in house custom solution, but the long-term support costs coupled with the lack of core skills in developing these types of tools stopped us on this front.

DELIVERABLES: AdvancePCS' standard offering to core clients includes fast-running overviews of AdvancePCS performance, Top N reports along a variety of dimensions, multi-pass SQL analytical reports and full ad hoc reporting capabilities. In addition, we provide a variety of custom user-specific queries based on export requirements.

VENDOR SUPPORT: MicroStrategy strives to understand our needs and provides ongoing insight and guidance on projects. We were particularly impressed with the onsite knowledgeable consultants, the extensive knowledge base and responsiveness of MicroStrategy's technical support and the dedication of the account management team.

DOCUMENTATION: The documentation is a helpful supplement to tech support and the account team, but we were not able to solely rely on it to realize the maximum potential of the software.

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