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IBM i in Healthcare: IBM’s WISH Application

July 9, 2018

Another story I ran into while celebrating the IBM i 30th Anniversary this year comes to us, again, from Belgium. At first, when I heard about it, I thought it would make a great client story for the IBM i 30th site, but, well, it just doesn’t quite fit, so I’ll feature it here instead. 
Before we go on, I want to thank someone right up front: Linda Van der Elst is the IBMer I met who is responsible for telling me this story, and she’s part of the team that delivers WISH (Web Information System for Healthcare). I’m taking a bunch of this blog from what she wrote for me.


In a sector where trust and confidence are essential, a hospital needs a dependable software solution capable of handling the administrative workload of the hospital effectively that’s also highly secure. For over 40 years, IBM had developed an administrative solution for Belgian hospitals, supporting both Dutch and French languages. So, you see, this story is not really about a single client, but about an IBM solution delivered to many clients.
Since the beginning, this powerful application incorporated all the functions required for patient administration, as well as allowing the hospital to do charging and invoicing. Like many long-lived successful applications, though, it had a text-based user interface that was less intuitive than contemporary interfaces. 
Therefore, in 2005, IBM decided to invest in the development of WISH by upgrading the initial application, featuring a graphic, web-based user interface, based on the latest technologies.  WISH is still based on the old application, which for many years has demonstrated its value for a large number of Belgian hospitals. In essence, WISH was already fully developed and stable, based upon 40 years of IBM experience with around 50 Belgian clients. And since the application was developed in Belgium, it’s totally aligned with current national legislation, as well as the specific nature of the local medical sector. It’s continuously being enhanced with new functionalities, which means it is able to adapt to constant new developments within the industry.
Extremely happy with the way the application operated in the past, the clients welcomed the introduction of WISH with enthusiasm—particularly as patient management is such an essential requirement of the IT system of a hospital. WISH’s central database handles the fast and accurate processing of patient data, and all the information gathered during a hospital admission or patient visit sits at its core. Through WISH, this data must be entered only once and is also made available to all other applications within the hospital’s information system. This means that the application guarantees fast, accurate and complete invoicing information.
Today, WISH is the most modern health information system for the Belgian market based on Websphere and Java. 
Fast migration for the benefit of users
The clients’ migration to WISH took very little time. The IT teams also took advantage of the process to re-examine the system’s security from every angle, in particular reviewing the profiles of the various users (patient reception, consultations, invoicing, etc.) in order to avoid compatibility problems and to make it easier to create new profiles. This initial phase, aimed at optimizing the system’s management, took about two weeks and was followed by the actual migration, which was carried out by IBM in conjunction with the clients. 
During the entire migration, the two versions of the application ran in parallel, enabling IBM to guarantee the continuity of operations throughout the hospital. A migration can only be fully successful if the users are convinced about the benefits of the new solution. However, thanks to the simplicity of adopting WISH, it wasn’t difficult to win everyone’s support. The new application is not only beautiful and user friendly, but its functions are also similar to the old version. All developers needed to do to ensure adoption was to supervise users for a few hours and show them the differences between the old solution and the new one. 
And it’s not just users who have seen their work made easier by WISH. The system has new technical capabilities, and the implementation of web services has been greatly simplified. 
This is the Start of the Future of WISH
With the new WISH solution, IBM now had a lot of interest of the Belgian market. WISH increased its market share to 40% of all Belgian hospitals. And there’s a new wave of potential clients is looking at WISH. WISH is a real success story!
Going forward, the IBM team has developed several new modules: integrating payment by credit card, identification of the patient by the EID, connecting with the national social security network, registration of medical acts by the physicians themselves and more. 
The success of WISH, which is currently used by over 70 Belgian hospitals, is a sum of its many features. It’s a highly flexible solution that can be adapted to any hospital environment because it has such a large number of configurable parameters. The functions are made available via an online interface that is much more user-friendly for end-users – even occasional ones – and which is suited to current access standards via the web. In addition, the content of the functions, database, APIs, interfaces and batch programs (which are essential for setting charges and billing) have not been changed – which means that the whole experience already acquired by users on the old platform has been retained in the new application.
The Technology of WISH 
As you can imagine, the technology being used to deliver all this value to hospitals is based on IBM i and POWER
  • Hardware:
    • IBM Power Systems (mostly 2 per client, running in high availability mode)
    • PCs as thin clients
  • Software :
    • On IBM Power Systems:
      • IBM i as operating system (7.2 and 7.3)
      • Websphere Application Server for the graphical web application
      • IBM Db2 for IBM i database
      • RPG, CL, Java, Javascript and SQL
    • On the PCs:
      • Windows or Linux as operating system
      • Internet Explorer, Firefox or Chrome as browser
  • The IBM WISH team: mixed team of Java and RPG developers, some working in both languages
In the couple of months since I met Linda, two more hospitals have adopted WISH because they merged with a smaller hospital that already used WISH and determined that it was the better solution.
As I wrote last time, the future of IBM i continues to be based on solution developers who care about bringing real value, and real solutions, to whatever client segment matters to them.  In this case, the solution providers are not an Independent Software Vendor, but instead are a team of IBM developers who care passionately about providing a solution for the hospitals in their country. They’ve stayed close to the requirements of their customer set, and have also remained knowledgeable about what is possible on IBM i and Power. This combination has helped them fully satisfy their clients, while also winning business for them, and for IBM i.

Posted July 9, 2018| Permalink