Austin Health saves ancient apps

Melbourne healthcare provider Austin Health has moved key applications from a legacy Reality-X platform, which developers had not touched in 10 years, to a modern system by software company Intersystems.

Melbourne healthcare provider Austin Health has moved key applications from a legacy Reality-X platform, which developers had not touched in 10 years, to a modern system by software company Intersystems.

(Credit: Austin Health)

Time had been ticking for the health organisation, which employs thousands of staff and treats tens of thousands of patients, because the contracts for the Reality-X platform, which supported specialised applications the company used in its everyday operations, were ending.

"We basically run our IT department on an oily rag," Austin Health application services manager Paul Girdler said. "We were going to be sinking a lot of money into legacy systems."

Girdler said that he had been considering a rewrite of the old applications sitting on the platform to escape the costs, but that such an action would have cost in the order of $200,000.

Instead, Girdler decided to buy the answer to his problem from Intersystems, moving the applications to the firm's CACHÉ platform and thus coming to a more reasonable estimate for keeping the applications running off the Reality-X platform of $60,000 for hardware, staff costs and software.

Having run TrakCare by the same company, Austin Health already had a conduit to Intersystems, Girdler said.

"That made it easier for us to make the decision," he said, although he added that there were no cost savings from already running an Intersystems product, except for having staff already trained up.

Since deciding on Intersystems, Girdler has moved the largest and most complex of the applications, a booking system for a dozen departments such as physiotherapy, psychiatry, social work and speech pathology, to the new platform.

We basically run our IT department on an oily rag

Paul Girdler

"We figured if we can't get that one across, there's not much point in doing the others," he said.

Having successfully shifted the application away from Reality-X, Girdler has progressed to seven other applications.

His developers now have an interest in the application, because they don't have to write MultiValue code to extend it, Girdler said. Instead they use CACHÉ, which he said was a dialect of Visual Basic.

Their programming skills will be put to good use next year to change the user interface for the applications, he said, because although they will have been moved to the new platform, they will still look and feel like a green-screen legacy application, one of the disadvantages of not doing a rewrite.

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