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CASE STUDY - American Healthways Increases Performance and Enables Growth

Commentary by Scott Kozicki, Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, American Healthways

case study American Healthways

American Healthways (Nasdaq: AMHC) is the nation’s leading and largest provider of disease management, care enhancement, and high-risk health management services designed to improve the quality of healthcare and to lower costs. The company has more than a million lives under management nationwide.

A key component of its operation is information management. To keep up with growing volumes and deliver a high level of customer service, the company acquired an HP Integrity server with multiple Itanium 2 processors running HP-UX 11i v2 and Informatica’s PowerCenter 7.1 data integration software optimized for 64-bit processing. The result: more than a tenfold improvement in performance in preliminary testing. With the new system, a single application that used to take 72 hours was completed in just two hours. “It was a phenomenal result—far better than we had hoped for,” said Scott Kozicki, American Healthways’ vice president and chief technology officer.

The Emerging Industry of Disease Management

While the concept of disease management is relatively new, its premise is not: healthier people cost less. To improve health and, as a result, drive cost savings, disease management providers work with people with chronic diseases and conditions, providing education, coaching, and support to help them become better self-managers of their health. It all starts when a health plan hires American Healthways to pore through massive amounts of claims, lab, and pharmacy data.

Challenge: Data Integration on a Huge Scale

It’s the data analysis that presents the biggest challenge. After growing by more than 25 percent a year for several years, the processing task grew beyond American Healthways’ existing IT infrastructure.

Running Informatica PowerCenter 5.2 in a 32-bit Windows NT environment with only three gigabytes of memory, American Healthways surveyed other Informatica customers, asking how performance could be improved. The message was clear: switch to a UNIX operating system. HP consultants added that a major problem was a shortage of memory and memory contention within the operating system.

The HP Integrity server running Informatica’sPowerCenter 7.1 gave us performanceimprovements far beyond what we hadexpected, and that’s before the system waseven optimized for our needs.
—Scott Kozicki, Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, American Healthways

At the same time, Informatica was preparing for a beta release of PowerCenter 7.1, which takes advantage of 64-bit Itanium processing. The natural choice became an Itanium-based HP server.

Informatica and HP arranged a proof-of-concept test utilizing an Integrity server, HP-UX 11i v2, and the beta release of Informatica PowerCenter 7.1. The company chose the HP Integrity rx4640 server with four 1.5 GHz Itanium 2 processors, 16 GB of memory, and a 73GB internal drive, running on HP-UX 11.23. That configuration cut processing from 72 hours to just two hours on one ETL application. And, as it turns out, the system was utilizing just three of its four CPUs.

“The HP Integrity server running Informatica’s PowerCenter 7.1 gave us performance improvements far beyond what we had expected,” Kozicki said, “and that’s before the system was even optimized for our needs.”

In two other tests, run times were cut from nearly two hours in the old production environment to just 15 minutes in the test environment, and from 23 hours to 41 minutes. Processing time was cut by 96 percent or more in all three tests.

Ivan Chong, vice president of product management at Informatica, added that American Healthways is benefiting not just from performance gains, but also from the flexibility of Informatica’s software architecture. “Historically, when you move from one chip set to another, one operating system to another, or one database to another, the change kills your old software. With Informatica, you can simply upgrade to a new version and automatically leverage the advantages of the new underlying hardware and operating systems. So users have extraordinary freedom to change and upgrade their systems without having to start fresh on their software.”

This article originally appeared in the issue of .

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