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2/23/2002
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Forcing The Application-Integration Issue

Health- and financial-industry initiatives demand integration.

Integration, a core component of any application infrastructure, is especially critical for health-care and financial companies trying to meet significant new regulations and initiatives. Sensing lucrative sales, application integrators are designing software to help health-care companies comply with the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, and financial institutions meet an industry goal of completing any trade in one day.

The latest enterprise-application-integration vendor stepping into the arena is Vitria Technology Inc. This week, Vitria is expected to ship software addressing both HIPAA and the one-day-trade initiative. Passed in 1996, HIPAA focuses on keeping electronic medical records private as they move through the health-care data stream.

The one-day-trade goal for financial companies, known as Global Straight Through Processing, is supposed to lead to computer systems and standards for linking all components of a trading cycle involving stocks, bonds, or other instruments. Deadlines for both efforts are mushy, as executives bridle at their requirements.

HIPAA, for example, calls for establishing an audit trail for each patient record. As the document moves along, each application it touches has to imprint it with an identifier that cites every person who handled it and for what purpose.

"We need a complete audit trail," says Ian Tuller, director of customer support, security, and planning at the University of California in San Francisco, which includes a major medical center. The university is looking at Internet-based software for integration but hasn't made any decisions.

Vitria's software, Collaborative Applications, is designed to come out of the box ready to handle insurance claims for hospitals, for instance, or take stock trades from order to settlement for a trading company.

For intracompany application integration, Vitria this week is expected to ship separate enhancements called business objects for its integration server; they can take incoming data in any format and translate the data into multiple formats for delivery to ERP, inventory, or other back-end applications.

Business objects also synchronize updates among applications. Pricing wasn't released, but the average cost of implementing Vitria's technology ranges from $500,000 to $700,000, says Dale Skeen, the company's founder and chief technical officer.

Skeen describes the new products as part of the company's "breakout strategy," moving it beyond adapters and low-level technology involved in integration--work that could one day be replaced by emerging Web-services standards for linking applications over the Internet. "With Web services," says Skeen, "low-level technical integration is dead."

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