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  Case Study: Migration of the Montana State Laboratory Services Bureau Legacy Software System  
 


Summary
Gold Systems has worked with the Montana State Laboratory Services Bureau since 1995 to build and maintain a DOS-based application that imports laboratory data and processes the samples for billing. In 2005, the software was obsolete and many of the interfaces had been modified over the lifetime of the application. Gold Systems built a customized web-based solution that interfaces with two separate laboratory software systems, as well as the Department of Public Health and Human Services fiscal management system.

Clients
The Montana Laboratory Services Bureau (LSB) of the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services “provides analytical, consulting, and training services to programs of the State of Montana, local and federal agencies, local clinical laboratories and to the general public.” Clinical samples are received from facilities throughout the State. Environmental samples are received from various governmental agencies and private businesses, as well as from individuals. The web-based system, known as VERA, provides billing and fiscal management functionality for LSB staff.

Challenge
In 2004, the DOS-based fiscal software system used by LSB staff was on the brink of collapse. State IT personnel were unable to successfully assist with maintenance and programmers familiar with the application's platform were practically non-existent. In addition to migrating the functionality to a more contemporary platform, extensive and complex data conversion would be required. In addition, the system interfaced with two software applications used in coordination with the analyses conducted by the Lab: Orchard ® Harvest ™ software for the Montana Public Health Laboratory and Aspen software by Telecation ® for the Montana Environmental Laboratory. Furthermore, The Lab needed a way to more easily invoice Medicaid for patients who were eligible for assistance at the time the sample was given.

Approach:
In March 2005, Gold Systems was hired to conduct a systems analysis of the current data structure which was compared to the current business processes in order to identify gaps in the functionality. A web-based system was recommended and several of the manual processes were automated to reduce the effort required of LSB staff. The receipting processes were moved from a standalone, black box structure to a direct interface with the DPHHS fiscal system for receipt download and matching. A dynamic and customizable framework was suggested, which reduced the dependency on contractors to maintain the metadata. The recommended solution also included two custom imports to receive sample data from the disparate software applications used by the Public Health and Environmental Laboratories. The migration and conversion of legacy laboratory data was a significant part of the development effort, requiring some complex mapping of data to the new database structure.

Outcome
For the past three years, the LSB staff have been using the fiscal management system, known as VERA. Gold Systems has provided minimal user support throughout this time, as well as a few minor enhancements. The LSB plans to explore the option of interfacing directly with the clinical and environmental databases, rather than providing a downloadable file. This will allow the records to become available to LSB staff as they are completed. In addition, the system offers the foundation for building a Medicaid billing module should funds become available.