New Acquisition and Continuously Moving Targets Tests a Lab’s Limits
Real-time data integration and ensuring data integrity were critical to the success of a newly acquired division of a global clinical testing laboratory that performs hundreds of thousands of tests every day as well as deals with huge volumes of data from many disparate systems. Extremely tight timelines and new systems being developed in concert with the implementation of PilotFish plus a lack of ACORD expertise and IT infrastructure from the acquired firm posed a unique set of challenges. The client relied on PilotFish as their preferred partner because of their expertise and the underlying technology, along with their outsourced services team to implement the solution.
One of the nation’s largest privately held clinical testing laboratories (with clients across the globe) provides risk assessment, drug abuse testing, wellness, molecular diagnostics and global clinical trials. Its customers include many of the world’s largest insurers, employers, pharma and biotech companies and healthcare plans. In acquiring a leading provider of paramedical exams and laboratory testing services, the client faced an influx of new business – which included call center business operations. The acquisition came with little in the way of IT infrastructure and staff. What was transferred included legacy technologies. In rationalizing the new business, the client forged ahead to consolidate their own technology stack. Contractual drop-dead dates added to the inherent technical challenges. A solution needed to be delivered within a very tight timeframe. To meet these challenges, PilotFish was selected as the integration solution – along with its team of consultants to ensure customer satisfaction and seamlessly met contractual guarantees.
A perfect storm challenged the client and PilotFish. Simultaneously and with minimal disruption to customers’ businesses, new customer-facing and back-end systems were being developed by the client while PilotFish was given responsibility for all messaging and integration of existing and new customers. Legacy systems (notably telephony) had to be integrated until retired. Not unexpectedly, asynchronous processes and guaranteed delivery of data were added hurdles.
PilotFish had to deliver results that were highly variable by client. Each customer transmitted customized inbound messages, notwithstanding their use of established ACORD standards. Similarly, each customer required customized outbound messages in the exact format previously used and according to their current delivery requirements (continuously throughout the day or at a specified time(s) each day). Message strings included large, embedded images (BLOBs in TIFF, PDF and other formats).
In an evolving environment, PilotFish (on the integration side) and the client’s IT team (on the development side) needed to communicate continuously and well. The new Application Platform as a Service (aPaaS) application development approach being employed involved rapidly changing requirements as well as a plethora of change orders. In the meantime, customers continued business-as-usual, expecting a high level of service and guaranteed transaction processing.
The PilotFish solution was leveraged to develop the primary interface for no-touch inbound and outbound transactions, primarily focused around ACORD standards, but with some flat-file work as needed for those customers requiring it. PilotFish’s integration engine suite was deployed to provide a complete integration solution that is both flexible enough to handle the diverse connectivity, validation, data transformation, routing and delivery of information and is scalable to support the tremendous volume of data expected. With PilotFish, each customer is able to define the data formats, connectivity protocols, business rules and message flows that govern data flow. Using PilotFish’s methodology and tools, the customers’ customized inbound and outbound transactions were effectively addressed. Inbound customer data was normalized and then easily delivered in the customized formats that exactly mirrored each client’s previous requirements and business rules.
Another requirement was that PilotFish needed to re-engineer the client-facing web services endpoints and the back-office automation to take advantage of the client’s infrastructure – which was in the process of changing while that was being done. PilotFish accomplished this in parallel to building up a common set of internal interfaces used (by the client’s web app and by PilotFish) for orders, status, reporting and fulfillment-tracking.
Creativity and agility, not to mention troubleshooting, was required of the PilotFish team to deliver on customer requirements and expectations in the face of constantly moving targets. An innovative solution that PilotFish utilized was updating an Oracle database to give integration visibility to both teams to the status of requirements and change orders.
Throughput issues in this changing environment were solved via PilotFish’s advanced transaction queuing. This allows as much concurrent throughput as needed while throttling of the volume of data from each channel to match the receiving system’s capability to ingest the data. Monitoring and alerts were activated and troubleshooting was done to trace order issues. PilotFish’s queuing capabilities are reliable and easily configured ─ a tremendous advantage since the client’s technology stack was constantly changing and evolving.
The PilotFish solution was implemented with minimal disruption to the client’s day-to-day business or that of its customers. By re-engineering the client-facing web service endpoints and the back-office automation, PilotFish was able to take advantage of the client’s existing investment in its infrastructure. PilotFish was able to do the development in parallel and build up a common set of internal interfaces used (by the client’s web app and PilotFish) for orders, status, reporting, and fulfillment-tracking. In doing so, it was able to provide a record that a particular case had been delivered, validating the transaction.
Through the innovative use of an Oracle database, internal integration done between PilotFish and the client’s IT development team provided better diagnostics and visibility in situations where things did not go as expected so that these could be quickly remedied.
By utilizing PilotFish’s suite of integration products and services team, the client was able to go live with eight major companies and meet all of its contractual deadlines. By leveraging PilotFish products, which are designed to make the configuration, management and maintenance of interfaces easier, the client can easily step in on an on-going basis to support and maintain client-facing interfaces. PilotFish’s architecture, which facilitates interface reuse, also played a role in the speed with which the solution could be rolled out with timelines adhered to and guaranteed deadlines met. Using PilotFish, each new implementation can be achieved by cloning earlier efforts and only making minor modifications in configuration, thus saving considerable amounts of time.
THE FUTURE STATE
In the near term, the client plans to continue to leverage PilotFish and its services team on an ongoing basis to support and maintain client-facing interfaces (e.g., as new clients come on, as clients upgrade from one version of a standard to the next, etc.). In that the PilotFish services team of two delivered amazing creativity, agility and productivity affordably, their ongoing use is a money-saving investment until the “perfect storm” calms down.
Longer-term, the client plans to take over primary responsibility for new customer implementations and maintenance of existing interfaces. The PilotFish integration solution, with its exclusive “graphical automated interface assembly line” and other advances, has demonstrated that integrating with virtually anything and everything now and in the future is possible. Additionally, business analysts and other non-technical staff will be able to do 80%-90% of the data exchange work, freeing up scarce IT talent for other projects to keep moving their business forward.
The flexible and extensible architecture of the PilotFish Platform will allow the client to rapidly set up connection methodologies that meet the needs of their existing legacy clients, while also allowing them to leverage industry standards and upgrades, new advanced technologies and best practices with new trading partners. Overall, the PilotFish solution can be relied on to help drive the client’s growth, profitability and expansion into new market segments – all while helping to reduce costs.
Since its founding in 2001, PilotFish has been solely focused on the development of software products that enable the integration of systems, applications, equipment and devices. Billions of bits of data transverse through PilotFish software connecting virtually every kind of entity in healthcare, 90% of the top insurers, financial service companies, a wide range of manufacturers, as well as governments and their agencies. PilotFish distributes Product Licenses and delivers services directly to end users, solution providers and Value-Added Resellers across multiple industries to address a broad spectrum of integration requirements.
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