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Web services cut state health costs

A Web service application being developed by the state of South Carolina's Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) will save taxpayers $1 million a year in postage, according to Paul Gowder, Webmaster for the project.

The Web service application will replace mainframe printouts of Medicaid payments, which can be as lengthy as 400 pages, with weekly Web reports that hospitals and physicians can access through a new DHHS portal, explained Gowder.

Authorized personnel at thousands of hospitals and medical clinics will be able to view the reports through any standard Web browser, added John Loy, senior network engineer at DHHS.

''That will be about $1 million in savings just in postage for us,'' he said. ''And that's not counting the labor involved. The quarterly reports to providers on Medicaid claims were so voluminous they filled boxes.''

Programmers working with Gowder and Loy are using the Java-based Novell exteNd tools as the Web application development platform. Working with Java is a major transition for the state agency's development staff, which had been working with Microsoft Visual Basic and other 4GL tools, Loy said.

Training is provided by consultants from BravePoint, an Atlanta-based systems integrator partner for Novell, that helped with development of the Web portal and is now assisting with the Web services applications, Gowder explained.

An initial Web services application already completed by BravePoint consultants allows providers to look at the status of their claims online, Loy said. It pulls claim information from a DHHS mainframe database and sends it to the provider's Web browser, he explained.

Additional Web services applications in the works will provide Medicaid patients with the ability to find clinics offering specialized services such as dialysis, Gowder said, and also let those providers update information on their services. The eventual goal is to provide DHHS personnel with secure mobile access to patient information via Web services, he added.

About the Author

Rich Seeley is Web Editor for Campus Technology.

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