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Field Report: HealthMedx Scales Up the Data Warehouse

Health-care software provider HealthMedx scales up to prepare for the baby boomers.

The boomers are coming. Within the next 10 years, few industries are as certain to undergo change as the health-care industry. A big reason is that baby boomers are about to enter their 60s. Just as this generation rocked established institutions in its younger years, it will be a catalyst forcing the health-care industry to leave behind antiquated methods and systems. "Baby boomers are going to demand a whole different healthcare model," says Charlie Daniels, president of HealthMedx, a provider of health-care software systems. "They will be savvy about choices and have the financial wherewithal to afford different ways of receiving care."

HealthMedx serves the extended care market in the Springfield, Mo. The company offers CareMedx Knowledge Management Solutions, which go beyond transaction processing to use information as a means of integrating resident and patient management, point of care, clinical care and financial functions through a dashboard. Along with traditional facilities such as nursing homes, HealthMedx serves providers in the burgeoning home health-care market, which baby boomers are expected to use extensively. "Given the growth we are experiencing and our customers' expectation of 24/7 uptime, we need to have a predictable database management model that allows us to scale up when necessary," Daniels says.

Making use of a massive data center developed by Springfield's local public utility, HealthMedx provides its solutions on demand; however, it can also deploy them at customer locations, which it must monitor remotely. This adds up to hundreds of databases. HealthMedx employs StrataVia's Data Palette, a set of tools or hosted services that let organizations capture and define standard database management operating procedures, use this knowledge to automate administration where possible and continuously monitor the entire database environment. HealthMedx also uses Data Palette to track and audit all changes to the databases, which is critical for adhering to government regulations.

The company's databases run on Microsoft SQL Server. With standard operating procedures (SOPs) defined according to its customers' business needs and by best practices, HealthMedx uses Data Palette to deploy them to, for example, schedule and manage backups. Data Palette's alerts give the company an exception-based view of database conditions, including whether query response time is up to snuff or if disk space is running low.

The biggest challenge has been to pick and choose which alerts are most important. "You can get numb with all the alerts, so we've been able to fine tune and focus on just the things that really make a difference in terms of our service level agreements," Daniels says. "Others we can monitor through our weekly alerts."

Automating database management according to SOPs and best practices lets HealthMedx focus on delivering its knowledge-management vision, rather than getting bogged down in mundane tasks. Daniels says that automation, plus the paradigm shift to hosted computing, lets HealthMedx scale up without incurring the overhead that often is necessary.

The baby boomer generation, never happy with one-size-fits-all, will seek flexibility as it hits the golden years. HealthMedx is showing how health-care information systems can flex and scale--and not die before the boomers get old.