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Issue of August 2005 

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Case Studies

IT-powered cure for Wockhardt

An intelligent selection of IT solutions has helped Wockhardt overcome challenges in its day-to-day functioning. by Newly Paul

Wockhardt Hospitals had ambitious plans of expanding its healthcare operations and integrating the information & management systems across its chain of hospitals to improve management and the services it provided to patients. IT was seen as a facilitator of the integration process which could also ease day-to-day operations and free the management to concentrate wholly on patient care.

The company implemented the Wipro Hospital Information Resource Planning System at its hospitals in Mumbai and Nagpur. This is a Hospital Information System (HIS) based on Microsoft Windows Server with modules that cater to all functions of a hospital from administration and marketing to billing and health check-ups.

According to Suresh Shenoy, Vice-president, IT, Wockhardt, “The solution deployed by us has resulted in improved patient care, and better manpower and inventory management.” The use of IT-enabled services has also resulted in a substantial cost benefit to the organisation, and decreased the scope for human error.

IT Challenges

Suresh Shenoy
Vice-president, IT

As part of its expansion plans, Wockhardt needed a solution that would not only incorporate patient management functions, but also integrate the various hospitals in its chain so that the management could plan its operations better.

Shenoy says, “The solution we needed had to not only harmonise the functions of the outpatient and inpatient departments, but also ensure that the required patient information was available to the department concerned.” In addition, it had to also identify and organise the commercial processes involved in hospital administration. “The solution had to be user-friendly and have the capacity to analyse the financial performance of all the hospitals in the Wockhardt chain.”

For A Suitable Solution

Wockhardt evaluated many solutions before selecting Wipro’s. The solutions were tested for suitability in terms of features, product path, future vision, technology, customisation capabilities, and availability of long-term support. Since the existing hospital management systems were not suited to function in the new growth-oriented environment, they needed to be replaced.

Wockhardt, in collaboration with Harvard Medical International, chose Wipro HealthCare IT—a part of Wipro Technologies—as the solution provider for the project. Oracle Financials was selected as the global financial vehicle. The financial gist of local operations is captured from the HIS and posted into Oracle Financials through an interface.

Inside The His

The new system has enabled improved patient care, and we have been able to achieve consistency in this. In terms of cost, the overall manpower per IP bed has reduced

The HIS has about 36 integrated modules catering to different functions of the hospital. The modules covered include administrative, commercial, materials, manpower and clinical data. It has interfaces to laboratory equipment, bar-codes of lab samples, attendance recording systems and financial accounting systems. The solution is integrated and configurable, and is thus easily manageable.

About 200 client PCs are networked by a 100 Mbps backbone connected to a powerful set of application and database servers. 60- 100 users can log in at any time.

The database and applications run on a Pentium III 800 MHz server. The solution includes an Internet and Lotus Notes e-mail server. There is an audio-visual set-up for broadcasting live surgeries to auditoriums; this facility can be extended to remote locations by using leased lines, ISDN and the Internet. In addition, there is an intranet set-up which gives access to HR policies and other employee self-services.

The Technology

The presentation layer of the HIS consists of Windows client applications developed using the Microsoft Visual Basic version 6.0 development system. The Data Service layer runs through Microsoft SQL Server 2000, and the HIS database is hosted on a two-node Microsoft SQL server cluster, along with a single-node application server and a single-node staging server. All users connected to the primary server can shift to the secondary application server if the first one fails.

The Practice

The implementation was done jointly by Wipro, Wockhardt-IT and the hospital’s power users, and was completed in eight months.

The implementation process is called a milestone-based litmus test, and involves dividing the project into seven milestones. To proceed to the next module of implementation, the previous module enforced has to pass a litmus test as determined by functional users. After the implementation, four-level support is provided. The first level is given by power users of the particular function, next by user co-ordinators, and then by the local IT support team. If all of these fail, the problem is finally submitted to Wipro.

There is a test-bed facility in Mumbai where all cases, solutions and additions to solutions are tested by the IT team before they are released to the production server.

An Effective Solution

The ROI on the HIS has been better than expected. “The new system has enabled improved patient care, and we have been able to achieve consistency in this. Human errors in the functioning of the hospital have reduced considerably. In terms of cost, the overall manpower per IP bed has reduced,” states Shenoy. Similarly, better material control has been achieved through the requisition-issue-acknowledgement cycle.

Looking Ahead

The company has extensive plans for implementing projects in future. The implementation of the Picture Archiving and Communication System (PACS) and its integration with HIS has been planned. Other plans include online interface with third parties for medical assurance, integrating tele-medicine with HIS, developing interfaces with handheld devices for delivering faster and better care, and Internet-based delivery of lab and other reports in a secure environment.

IRCTC opens up a new train of thought

While IRCTC’s Web site may not win any ‘Best Web site of the Year’ award, it has made life simpler for millions of passengers. Venkatesh Ganesh and Soutiman Das Gupta trace its history, the problems the organisation overcame, and both present and future strategies that will take IRCTC to new heights

The Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation’s (IRCTC) reservation site allows passengers to buy tickets, pay using credit/debit cards, check train fares, routes & availability in real-time, and receive alerts about rail schedules. In addition, passengers can subscribe to an alert service that advises them about the reservation status at fixed intervals. Passengers can also track their tickets from the time of booking until third-party courier services make the delivery.

IRCTC now handles bookings for about 8,500 passenger trains (of the total 14,500 trains) operating daily on the Indian railway network, which is the second largest after Russia’s. The tickets are delivered to any place specified by the user once the payment gateway authorises a transaction. This facility is now spread across 83 locations all over India, and more locations are being added. NRIs and foreign travellers can benefit too. Says Amitabh Pandey, Group General Manager, IT Services, IRCTC, “We have even made an option available for foreign travellers.”

IRCTC’s success is enviable, not only because of the fact that it is a government-owned organisation, but also due to the size and complexity of the Indian railway system. The Indian Railways system books about 5.5 lakh tickets a day. IRCTC’s business did about 1,95,939 tickets in April 2005 with revenues of Rs 28.8 crore.

In the beginning, its servers were populated with sub-1 GHz CPUs. They have since been upgraded to 3 GHz. The primary database server has four CPUs, while the secondary database server has two.

Many Ways To Pay

With electronic payment numbers still quite low in the whole Indian payments scenario, and credit cards still finding their way into Indian wallets, does IRCTC have any other modes of payment in mind? Explains Pandey, “We are aware of the low credit card penetration and poor online payment scenario in India. The other option that online retailers follow is the Cash-On-Delivery model, where the end-user pays cash after the product is delivered.” However, since the IRCTC system is connected to the Indian Railways reservation system and there are many other factors that come into play while booking a ticket online, the COD model is not feasible for IRCTC even though it makes a lot of commercial sense.

Another problem is that many Indians dislike the concept of credit cards since they don’t like buying goods on credit. IRCTC has realised this, and for customers who do not want to use these cards, an additional payment mode of direct debit from their accounts through online banking is now available. IRCTC has tied up with ten banks to enable direct debit facilities for account holders of these banks. For credit card payment, IRCTC has a tie-up with ICICI Bank and Citibank.

System Architecture

BroadVision Inc, a provider of enterprise business portal applications based in California, US, runs the IRCTC site on its BroadVision e-commerce platform. The big challenge for BroadVision was integrating the legacy system with the existing reservation system, and verifying credit card information in real-time as bookings had to be confirmed on the Passenger Reservation System (PRS) of the railways immediately.

Initially, it wasn’t exactly smooth sailing for IRCTC. Pandey comments, “Firstly, the PRS had to handle about six lakh reservations per day. Internet connectivity at that time was poor, and pages took a lot of time to load. Further, sometimes customers used to book a ticket multiple times since they kept clicking repeatedly.”

IRCTC had initially expected 1,00,000-2,00,000 hits and enquiries based on the numbers witnessed by online shopping sites. Instead, they were confronted with over 1.3 million enquiries daily, besides over 2,000 actual bookings. This resulted in terrible traffic jams, following which their payment gateways also went down. ICICI Bank and Citibank (their payment gateways) were therefore asked to upgrade their services. Also, there were issues related to failed transactions, which cost the organisation about 20 percent of the overall transactions. Besides, they had to deploy extra people whose primary job was to refund money for failed transactions.

IRCTC’s system runs on Intel-based servers, and, according to the organisation, it provides them with cost efficiency, robustness, smooth integration with legacy applications, and reliability for Web-enabling the system. The organisation also uses a combination of Intel, Red Hat and Oracle products.

“The IRCTC site is secure, and stealing credit card details is not possible since we use 128-bit encryption. Further, we don’t store credit card details in our system,” remarks Pandey.

In line with its growth strategy, IRCTC has begun to cater to the corporate sector, wherein companies can sign up on the site and book tickets for employees through a single account.

Alerts On Your Mobile

Over the last year, Pandey has also introduced Web services capabilities. “This has allowed the IRCTC to perform mobile commerce (m-commerce) transactions, benefiting citizens at large.” Passengers can also subscribe to an alert service that advises them about reservation status at fixed intervals. IRCTC has tied up with popular telecom service providers such as Airtel, Hutch, Idea, MTNL, Reliance Infocomm and Tata Indicom for these services.

Concludes Pandey, “The essence of this initiative was to use simple technology without the fancy and expensive software which most vendors promise will do wonders.”

NHAI turns to GIS

GIS is being used to monitor the National Highway Development Project

The Indian government has allocated Rs 54,000 crore for building the ambitious Golden Quadrilateral and the North-South- East-West Corridors spanning 13,146 km. This project, called the National Highway Development Project (NHDP), is one of the largest highway development projects in the world, and has been entrusted to the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI).

The Golden Quadrilateral project involves the construction of a high-density corridor connecting Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata. Another project, the North-South-East-West, involves building 7,300 kilometres by 2007. NHAI has also been entrusted with the 10,000 km of national highways to be undertaken by private parties on a build-operate-transfer basis.

Because these are time-bound projects, NHAI has to interact with vendors and partners across different projects, and share data in real time to enable timely completion. For example, NHAI has to exchange data with many organisations both in India and abroad. These organisations include consultants, government bodies, contractors and agencies such as the World Bank and Asian Development Bank.

Even the type of data being exchanged is complex, ranging from heavy design data files and bills of material to progress reports. Different data formats need to be modified and shared in real time with team members at different locations. While these files are too big to be sent over e-mail, shipping them is time-consuming and expensive. NHAI therefore needed a system wherein it could not only collaborate in real time and share design specifications, but also send detailed project reports to the funding agencies.

Autodesk Tools

For its design and mapping work, NHAI has adopted Autodesk’s AutoCad, Map and MapGuide. It also uses GIS (geographical information systems) -based tools from Autodesk to monitor the progress and maintenance of highway-related work. The same tools let NHAI’s project partners share and change design specifications instead of using e-mail, fax or telephone. The GIS-based tools also allow NHAI to record details about the maintenance schedules of each segment, quantity of material used, labour involved, and then cross-check the same with characteristics of a road such as elevation, curves and declines.

Says Atul Kumar, Chief General Manager, IT & Planning, NHAI, “Internet-based technologies such as data sharing and mobile computing have brought significant advantages to this project.” Besides the timely submission of detailed project reports to funding agencies, the mobile field force can access the latest design drawings and bills of material, and have the ability to make changes. Further, being able to maintain updated bills of material results in economical ordering of material and equipment by contractors as there is no need to maintain stocks.

NHAI plans to use Autodesk’s solutions in developing a Road Information System (RIS)—an integrated solution for collecting and storing highway-related data. RIS is a national-level information system that reviews the condition of the national highways and prioritises them for maintenance and upgradation. The entire solution is proposed to be GIS-based, and will be posted on the Web for effective monitoring.

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