REVIEWER: Kevin Mackey, manager of data services, Children’s Hospital & Medical Center in Omaha.

BACKGROUND: Children's Hospital & Medical Center of Omaha - a 144-bed nonprofit organization and the only full-service pediatric specialty health care center in Nebraska - has cared for children since 1948. In addition to pediatric primary care, patients are referred from throughout the region for the treatment of complex or unusual diseases. No child in need of medical care is ever turned away because of an inability to pay. The hospital is also the primary teaching site for the family practice and joint pediatric residency programs at Creighton University and the University of Nebraska Medical Center. The integration of IT solutions has long been an organizational priority at Children’s, leading to recognition as a “Most Wired” hospital two consecutive years by Hospitals and Health Networks, the journal of the American Hospital Association. Children’s also was recognized as a 2007 InfoWorld 100 Award recipient for demonstrating innovative use of cutting-edge technologies to enhance project goals and services.

PLATFORMS: Talend integrates data across a variety of systems - SQL Server, cache, text files and spreadsheets in addition to specific applications such as our ambulatory EMR, in-patient EMR and trauma databases.

PROBLEM SOLVED: CHO had several mission-critical data integration projects, including:

  • Data warehouse loading, from unrelated databases that often contain data that needs to be normalized before reports can be generated for executives and department managers.
  • Quality monitoring throughout the organization. Some of which include pediatric immunizations, asthma and ADHD, and other core measures.
  • Charge reconciliation, between the surgery management applications and the patient billing system.

Talend Integration Suite was able to connect to all our heterogeneous data sources, process and normalize the data to ensure a proper and reliable execution of the data integration processes.
PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Talend's support for heterogeneous systems allows Children’s to identify uniqueness in the data between different systems and transform it into normalized data, without actually consolidating all the data in a secondary data store. Data validation occurs inside the data stream, and any suspect data is flagged and included in a report that is then processed for reconciliation. The ability to virtually consolidate heterogeneous databases and perform data quality controls and corrections across them makes the processing of data faster and smoother.

STRENGTHS: We’re using Talend Integration Suite straight out of the box. Having the option to modify the product code is interesting, but in reality, Talend Integration Suite has all the features we need. We had a terrible time even keeping track of which jobs completed and which jobs failed under the previous ETL solution. We’re getting a huge return on investment from the notifications that can be set up within each of the jobs. These notifications allow us to often resolve the issue before our customers realize there was an issue.

WEAKNESSES: Right now, we don’t do any really large processing jobs, but I’ve noticed that large lookup tables can be an issue. (According to Talend support, a migration to the newer version would solve this issue.) Also, in the development environment, the graphical user interface itself tends to be a little slow at times.

SELECTION CRITERIA: We needed a tool that was flexible enough to bridge the gap in the different databases and applications that our vendors were using. The breadth of components and the connectivity was a big differentiator between Talend and the previous product we were using. Since we’re a nonprofit children’s hospital, we did not have a large budget for our integration tools. The price point was a major factor in our consideration of the tool.

DELIVERABLES: We use Talend to aggregate data and do any normalization we may need on the data to support the organization’s data warehousing or reporting needs.

VENDOR SUPPORT: At the time we were looking for a solution, Talend was on the leading edge in a number of areas, including maintenance. We implemented the product ourselves and have had excellent response from their support team.

DOCUMENTATION: The tool is pretty intuitive, and it’s fairly easy to work through things. Also, of special note are the community tools (forum, wiki, BugTracker, etc.) which are specific to an open source vendor and complement the documentation as a source of information.

Talend Integration Suite


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