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A HostBridge Case Study


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Integrating CA Ideal Applications

Group Health Cooperative


Group Health Cooperative (GHC) is a nonprofit health care system that provides both medical coverage and care for more than 500,000 residents in Washington State and North Idaho. A community coalition dedicated to making quality health care available and affordable opened GHC in 1947. Today, Group Health Cooperative is one of the few health care organizations in the country governed by consumers rather than internal executives. Group Health Cooperative selected HostBridge to replace an existing screen scraping application. GHC found that HostBridge outperformed competing products, provided broad support for all their CICS applications and data sources, and provided the unique ability to integrate Advantage™ CA-Ideal™ for CA-Datacom® (Advantage CA-Ideal) transactions using field names and panel data.

Challenge

GHC customer service representatives provided criteria for the pilot project using HostBridge. Representatives check claims, referral, membership, and billing information when customers contact the call center. To streamline the process, they need to retrieve data on a member, make changes to account information, and manage all other member service requests through a web browser. When GHC evaluated HostBridge, they were already using a Visual Basic application to provide a single interface to six different mainframe applications. The VB application opened a TN3270 session on the workstation for each legacy application and scraped the emulators to drive the host applications. This solution forced users to have up to seven windows open at the same time, which created a confusion of windows popping in and out of view on the terminal.

Requirements

Previous experience with screen-scraping provided a set of requirements for the Group Health Cooperative evaluation team.

Solution

GHC developed their integration layer using the HostBridge JavaScript-based process automation engine to generate HTML output presented in a browser. The combination of host-based scripting and HTML output allows the interface to function regardless of the HTML client in use.

HostBridge Technology developed support for Advantage CA-Ideal to meet the requirements set forth by GHC. HostBridge automatically identifies application panels and allows developers to interact using field names on each panel instead of row/column coordinates.

Because HostBridge runs entirely on the z/OS mainframe, GHC was able to create the new portal to their legacy applications without additional hardware and without changes to their security methods.

Technical Requirements

The mainframe integration had several key requirements:

Figure 1

Figure1. Group Health Cooperative architecture

Benefits

For the initial project, HostBridge substantially lowered the costs of integrating Advantage CA-Ideal into web portals and introduced an intuitive user interface.

If not for HostBridge, GHC would have either rewritten their applications at a cost of millions of dollars or maintained their applications and relied on screen scraping from the middle tier at a substantially higher cost. HostBridge allowed Advantage CA-Ideal applications to remain untouched and eliminated the need for middle tier hardware that introduces more points of failure, maintenance issues, and performance bottlenecks. The new, intuitive web-based system reduces training time substantially. The existing screen scraping solution was difficult to use and required intensive user training. Because HostBridge is based upon industry standards such as XML, SOAP, JavaScript, and HTML, web interface developers used existing knowledge and skills to build the new graphical user interface. This both lowered development costs and shortened the development schedule.

Based on the success of the first project, GHC used HostBridge with a second project dealing with CICS-based contract administration programs where representatives entered information into three separate systems and each contract number assignment took an hour to complete. HostBridge delivered the following results:

An added benefit is support for standard CICS facilities such as the Link3270 Bridge and CICS Web Support rather than new implementations of these existing services. HostBridge uses these services to integrate CICS BMS transactions and COMMAREA programs using field names in the same way as Advantage CA-Ideal applications. Thus, future CICS integration projects will build upon the skills and techniques learned through integrating Advantage CA-Ideal.

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