Qld hospital admits open source BI

Legacy spreadsheets replaced with Web-based application

A desire by senior management for real-time reporting has led the Friendly Society Private Hospital in Bundaberg, Queensland, to ditch spreadsheets for an open source, Web-based business intelligence and reporting solution.

The Friendly Society Private Hospital has been operating for over 60 years, but only in the past few years did it look at its internal systems and realize it needed to harness the disparate information sources in a holistic manner.

The hospital's information systems and HR Manager, Andrew Smith, said limits or budgets on a wide number of KPIs across all areas in the hospital needed to be set and were kept in a consolidated spreadsheet for monthly review by management.

"All managers could begin to see the potential correlations and interactions between each of their individual departments' KPIs," Smith said. "The results were obvious in principle, but had not been seen previously in a report format combining different information sources for management, in this time frame."

With the initial reporting limited to internal knowledge and monthly financial activities, the first reports were sometimes four to six weeks old. Following management requests for the reports to be updated in shorter time frames, in 2003 it moved to fortnightly spreadsheet reports.

"This we did, but of course the inevitable happened when management said 'why can't we have all this in real time'," Smith said. "They wanted a dashboard style report that took data from a huge variety of data sources automatically. This sounded good in theory, but in 2003 and 2004 after attempts by a contracted developer we realized it might just be wishful thinking."

The initial project to bring together information from different data sources using different applications into one dashboard had failed, but the hospital was determined to achieve such a solution.

After a meeting with Brisbane-based NetOptions, a member of the Datacom group, the project to build a Web-based dashboard with open source components started in December 2005. Six months later the solution went live.

Datacom's lead architect, Craig Sargent, said by using powerful open source tools and processes like AJAX, MySQL and PHP it was able to design a solution that integrated with legacy and newer systems at the hospital.

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