I always enjoy the opportunity to communicate with someone actually using technology rather than always speaking with suppliers of that technology. This time, I had the opportunity to communicate with Kevin Boyer, Lead Systems Analyst/Programmer, of Partnership HealthPlan of California (PHC).
Please introduce yourself and your organization
Partnership HealthPlan of California (PHC) is a public/private organization designed to provide a cost-effective health care delivery system to Medi-Cal, Healthy Kids, Healthy Families and MediCare Part D program recipients in California’s Solano, Napa, Yolo, Sonoma, Mendocino, and Marin Counties.
What were you doing that required this type of technology?
The call for a centralized job scheduling solution began with the migration from a legacy application written in COBOL to a UNIX application in 2008 to host PHC’s core insurance membership application.
Prior to this migration, PHC relied on a homegrown scheduling solution. With UNIX we realized that we were going to have a lot of jobs that we would have to run and required a lot more coordination between jobs. Relying on our home grown scheduler for UNIX would become resource intensive, as it would require having to create long jobs constructed out of custom code and stringing them together, jamming parameters by hard coding them into the jobs. These job strings would be difficult to create, monitor and correct if something went wrong.
What products did you consider before making a selection?
We considered many of the market-leading solutions.
We were looking for a scheduling and automation solution that take these long, complex job strings and turn them into pieces that would allow us to easily construct workflows and manage them effectively. In addition, we were looking for a solution that could provide a 360-degree view of all our scheduling from a single interface and provide alerting, control auditing and more.
Why did you select this product?
It became obvious that ActiveBatch from Advanced Systems Concepts, Inc. was right for us. The other competitive offerings would be too difficult and too expensive to scale as we grew versus the required capabilities at that time. ActiveBatch offered the right balance between price, capabilities and scalability.
What tangible benefits have you gotten through the use of this product?
ActiveBatch automates our claims and eligibility processes across our various service offerings, such as Healthy Kids, Healthy Families, Medicare and Medi-Cal programs.
For MediCal eligibility, it all starts when we receive a flat file from the State of California containing a member’s information. That information ends up in a relational database on our end. The processes can include up to 30 job steps, such as data validation, mapping member information and posting to an Oracle database.
Before ActiveBatch, we’d have all these various components in one long job that was hundreds of lines of code. We’ve now divided the processes into discrete job steps within ActiveBatch that pass dependencies and processing parameters down through the workflow upon completion of each job step.
For our other eligibility product lines, we receive EDI transactions that are translated into transaction formats that are compatible with our membership application software.
In addition, ActiveBatch makes the management of the various processes much easier. Although each business product line has its own set of claim processing and eligibility processes, from an IT standpoint, many of the steps involved in each process are identical.
With ActiveBatch, we can reuse the common jobs and process flows across the various product lines. Many times, it’s the same job, just run with different parameters. Active Batch has robust parameter substitution that also includes calculated date values, and value concatenation. That’s a big time saver and reduces the amount of code I have to manage moving forward.
Overall, we’re a small shop. I take care of the organization’s business process scheduling and I wouldn’t be able to do my job without ActiveBatch. It’s simply not possible for one person to manage and monitor nearly 500 jobs in a single night. Without ActiveBatch, we’d have to hire another two or three people.
What advice would you offer others?
Be very proactive when anticipating future scalability to make sure the scheduling solution will grow with you. There is a significant investment designing efficient process flows and tuning schedules and calendars. However, probably the most important aspect is making sure the vendor provides excellent product support and the product has a reliable track record – remember, if the scheduler is down, or limping along with software bugs, it will directly impact execution of the business mission.