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Australian Hearing is an Australian Government agency that provides hearing services and assisted listening devices to children, young adults up to the age of 26, and eligible senior citizens over the age of 65. The agency has 115 permanent hearing centers and offers hearing services from an additional 380 sites, such as doctor surgeries and social security centers, one or two days per week. The agency’s clinicians see around 4,500 patients per day, helping them manage their hearing impairments and achieve a better quality of life.
Australian Hearing wanted to improve the reliability, performance, and integration of its enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM), appointment scheduling, payroll, and employee performance systems. In 2011, the agency implemented Oracle Exadata Database Machine, Oracle SOA Suite, Oracle Access Manager, Oracle Enterprise Single Sign-On Suite Plus, Oracle Identity Management, and Oracle Enterprise Manager. It also upgraded to Oracle E-Business Suite Release 12.
The Oracle products have reduced the time taken to process month-end financial data by 92%, saved US$495,000 per year on IT administration costs, achieved 100% system availability, and cut the time taken to integrate a cloud-based payroll application from an anticipated 30 days to just 2 days. Clinicians can also enter patient data in seconds, compared to up to five minutes previously, and keep scheduled appointment times. This has significantly enhanced staff and patient satisfaction and restored confidence in the IT department.
Australian Hearing was operating a number of disparate business management systems, including an Oracle E-Business Suite ERP application, a CRM application, a bespoke appointment scheduling application, and payroll and employee performance applications hosted in a public cloud from Affinity. The agency was running its ERP, CRM, and appointment scheduling system on an unstable server infrastructure that had reached end-of-life.
The lack of system integration and poor system performance were significantly affecting Australian Hearing’s operational efficiency, as well as patient and staff morale. The agency experienced up to four system outages per week, which lasted at least several hours each time. Without access to its appointment scheduling and CRM applications, clinicians couldn’t attend to patients, who then had to wait up to three months for another appointment. On occasions when the system was out for an entire day, Australian Hearing would lose up to US$1 million in revenue.
The poor system performance meant it could take up to five minutes for clinicians to enter patient data. They often had to write information on paper to enter into the system later or to store manually. The lack of integration also meant human resource (HR) staff had to enter employee information separately into the ERP system and payroll application. It took 19 hours to generate month-end reports, and daily sales and other operational reports had to be batch processed overnight.
“We had so many system problems that administrative staff and clinicians completely lost faith in the IT department,” said Peter Gasparovic, CIO, Australian Hearing. “Clinicians were embarrassed in front of patients, and admin staff wasted time on manual processes. We were also running out of space for filing cabinets! And despite outsourcing our IT management, system maintenance was so arduous we also required 28 full-time equivalent (FTE) IT staff in-house.”
By replacing 12 ageing servers with Oracle Exadata Database Machine, Australian Hearing dramatically improved the system performance of its CRM and appointment scheduling applications, and its upgraded Oracle E-Business Suite.
“We tested the performance of Oracle E-Business Suite running on Oracle Exadata during one of busiest times—the first two hours of the business day,” said Gasparovic. “The results showed a 250% average improvement in data throughput on Oracle Exadata at6.2 terabytes per second (TPS), compared to our legacy IT infrastructure processing 2.5 TPS.”
Oracle Exadata has also improved average user I/O speeds by 200%, with the average wait time going down from 2 milliseconds (MS) to 0 MS.
“If we drill down even further on the individual disk I/O times, we can see Oracle Exadata is actually around three times faster than the old hardware,” he said.
By improving system performance, Oracle Exadata reduced the time taken to process month-end financial data from up to 19 hours to between 1.5 and 2 hours.
“In the past, financial staff would leave month-end reports running when they went home on Friday and deal with any issues or errors on Monday morning,” said Gasparovic. “Now, they finish the data processing and reporting before close of business, and don’t need to worry about it over the weekend.”
Staff can also easily generate daily and ad hoc financial, sales, and operational reports themselves, rather than waiting 24 hours for the IT staff to create them.
“We produce a number of daily sales reports showing how many hearing services and devices we have provided, and how many patients have requested additional devices not covered by the government’s voucher scheme,” said Gasparovic. “These are important as they show the expenses, profit, and loss of each hearing center and provide clinicians with a clearer view of our patients’ requirements.
“In the past, it would take a day or more for the IT department to consolidate information from different hearing centers and distribute these reports. Now, it takes five minutes every morning for center managers to generate their own reports, which show up-to-date information about the center’s performance. This helps them make better informed decisions.”
Since implementing Oracle Exadata, Australian Hearing has experienced 100% system availability and eliminated data bottlenecks. Clinicians no longer have to reschedule patient appointments as the appointment scheduling application is always available, and they can now enter and process patient details in seconds, compared to taking up to five minutes previously.
By minimizing system downtime, Australian Hearing also avoids losing millions of dollars in revenue.
“Clinicians are delighted by the huge performance improvements, as they are no longer face the embarrassment of explaining to patients that the system is slow or unavailable,” said Gasparovic. “Patient satisfaction has also significantly improved, as we’ve reduced the length of appointments and no longer have to reschedule them, with a delay of up to three months’ time because the system is down.”
Australian Hearing is using Oracle SOA Suite to integrate its Oracle E-Business Suite and CRM systems, custom appointment scheduling application, and cloud-based payroll and employee performance applications. Oracle SOA Suite has replaced 180 complex, point-to-point integration links and enabled IT staff to reuse services and portions of code when integrating applications. This has reduced the time required for integration activities and minimized the risk of lengthy system downtime associated with big integration projects.
Using Oracle SOA Suite, Australian Hearing integrated its cloud-based payroll application with its other business systems in just 2 days, compared to the 30 days it estimated it would take using point-to-point integration.
“In addition, 18 months ago, the government requested we extend the age range of patients we provide services to from 25 to 26 years old,” said Gasparovic. “It sounds straightforward, but, using the point-to-point integration, it took six months to update all 180 links and test the applications to ensure the change was consistent throughout. After implementing Oracle SOA Suite, we tested the same change and completed the whole project in just 15 days.”
By integrating the cloud-based payroll application with Oracle E-Business Suite and other business systems, Oracle SOA Suite has reduced the time taken for HR staff to update payroll information by 50%.
“HR staff now only has to enter data once when preparing the company payroll, and it automatically flows through into the payroll application,” said Gasparovic. “We’ve also reduced the time taken to set up IT network access for new employees and can keep more accurate records of significant changes made to employee details for future reference.
“Overall, we have freed up three people, who previously worked on HR data entry, to complete more valuable tasks, such as business analysis,” he said.
In addition, Australian Hearing has improved data integrity by reducing the risk of human error and enabling staff to better monitor and manage any data inconsistency issues.
“HR staff was amazed by the change in the quality of the newly integrated data, and happy the user interface remained very similar,” said Gasparovic. “All the complexity is in the back-end applications, which meant we didn’t need to retrain staff.”
Using Oracle SOA Suite, Australian Hearing has reduced the amount of paper documents clinicians need to carry to the 380 additional sites at which they offer hearing services. By integrating the CRM application with the appointment scheduling system and the content management system, clinicians now automatically see patient files containing contact, diagnosis, and previous appointment information on their laptops.
“Clinicians previously carried up to six bags containing patient files to offsite appointments, which would take about a day for admin staff to prepare in advance, and then refile once they had been updated,” said Gasparovic. “By integrating the systems we have laid the foundation for a paperless office, and significantly improved staff and clinician efficiency.”
Australian Hearing has now deployed single sign-on across its integrated business systems. Staff members can more easily remember their own passwords, and this has reduced calls to the service desk by 20%.
“Previously, our IT service desk was inundated with calls during the first week of every month from staff requiring multiple password changes,” said Gasparovic. “Now that employees only have one password to remember and update—and no longer need to report problems with system performance—we have reduced our service desk from nine to three FTE employees, freeing up other IT staff to complete more valuable, technical tasks.”
Single sign-on has also improved data security, as employees no longer keep multiple notes containing passwords on their desks, which could previously be seen by patients and other members of staff.
By implementing Oracle Identity Manager, Oracle Access Manager, and Oracle Enterprise Single Sign-On Suite Plus, Australian Hearing has saved US$495,000 per year on IT administration costs.
“We’ve reduced the IT staff’s workload by more than six thousand hours per year, by eliminating the need for them to complete manual tasks such as resetting passwords, creating and disabling accounts, and granting application access to employees,” said Gasparovic.
Australian Hearing has also saved significantly on licensing costs for Oracle SOA Suite and Oracle Identity Manager projects.
“Oracle Exadata allows guest machines to be pinned to CPUs, so we only need to license a portion of a physical machine,” said Gasparovic. “In addition, by allowing us to reuse services and application codes, Oracle SOA Suite saves system development time and costs.”
By improving system performance and implementing Oracle Enterprise Manager to better monitor any performance issues, Australian hearing has also significantly improved IT staff productivity and morale.
“Each year we conduct an employee engagement survey, and IT staff used to record an engagement level of about 17%,” said Gasparovic. “After we began making changes to the IT infrastructure, that figure rose to 54%. Then, after implementing Oracle Exadata, Oracle Enterprise Manager, and Oracle SOA Suite, it increased to 82%.
“Admin staff and clinicians now have more confidence in the IT staff’s abilities,” he said. “The IT department has won numerous internal awards, including Department of the Year.”
Australian Hearing was already running Oracle E-Business Suite and wanted to enhance the application’s functionality—as well as improve the integration and performance of its bespoke appointment scheduling application—by standardizing on Oracle infrastructure and middleware products.
The organization did consider other vendors but felt that Oracle Exadata and Oracle Fusion Middleware would offer the highest performing and most cost-effective solution.
“We could see the combination of Oracle SOA Suite and Oracle Exadata would enable us to achieve the full benefits of upgrading to Oracle E-Business Suite Release 12, and significantly improve the functionality, performance, and integration of our internal and cloud-based systems,” said Gasparovic. “We have been so impressed we’re also hoping to integrate two clinical hearing test systems in the future.”
Australian Hearing implemented Oracle SOA Suite, Oracle Identity Manager, Oracle Enterprise Single Sign-On Suite Plus, and Oracle Access Manager in May 2011.
It then deployed Oracle Exadata and Oracle Enterprise Manager in July 2011, and upgraded to Oracle E-Business Suite Release 12 in September 2012.
Australian Hearing engaged Oracle partner Professional Continuity to implement Oracle SOA Suite, Oracle Identity Manager, and Oracle Access Manager. The agency then worked with Oracle Advanced Customer Support Services for the Oracle Exadata and Oracle Enterprise Manager implementations.
“Professional Continuity was sensational,” said Gasparovic. “It provided excellent implementation services and honored our fixed-price agreement despite the project running over time. We were so impressed, we are now using its sister company to host our disaster recovery solution.
“We were also very pleased with the professional implementation and administration services provided by Oracle Advanced Customer Support Services,” he said.