NPR Report Writer and Report Designer: The Best of Both Worlds

The Best Of Both Worlds:

NPR Report Writer and Report Designer

MOM© The Best of Both Worlds

August 3, 2020                               Written By: Jim Smith, Director of Data Services

In Expanse, MEDITECH provides two full-featured reporting solutions: NPR Report Writer and Report Designer. Whether we are transitioning existing reports from MEDITECH MAGIC or Client/Server (CS) to Expanse, or building new reports within an active Expanse environment, we need to take a granular view of our options and determine which tool is best suited for each use case. In this exposition, we’re going to review the pros and cons of these two tools, and how to leverage these traits when determining the best option for our reporting needs. Though our examples will be focused on reports being updated across platforms, the same considerations are applicable to new reports being created in Expanse. In addition to our evaluation of NPR Report Writer and Report Designer, we will discuss how you can have the best of both worlds.

Those of us writing reports in MAGIC and CS are already familiar with MEDITECH’s NPR Report Writer, and any existing reports will be written in this medium. The NPR Report Writer is a robust, versatile reporting tool with the capacity to write extremely complex reports with relative ease, using the editor’s extended fragment and macro functionality. This functionality lends itself well to staff familiar with the NPR programming language, being able to create powerful macro-driven reports, that can even call other reports or MEDITECH routines, as needed. Though the MAGIC and CS NPR Report Writers have syntactical and platform-specific differences, converting existing NPR reports to Expanse will only require minor adjustments, provided that the application they are written out of, and fields they reference, are still in NPR in Expanse. This brings us to our first hurdle: there is no native way to pull fields from M-AT applications into an NPR Report Writer report. In Expanse, many applications have changed platforms from NPR to M-AT, such as Abstracting (ABS) and Patient Accounting (BAR), and any report needing to reference data from these applications would need to be built using Report Designer.

Report Designer is the report writing tool MEDITECH provided alongside the release of the M-AT platform and it is included with Expanse. Report Designer has a streamlined, user-friendly interface with many efficiencies that simplify the report creation process. For example, Report Designer includes a mode designed specifically for creating export-style reports that can be leveraged to quickly generate reports in multiple formats. Rather than providing free-form macro functionality like NPR Report Writer, Report Designer is integrated with a rules editor that does not require any programming experience to utilize. This rule-based approach is both a pro and a con, for though it allows users with varying degrees of experience to add custom logic to reports, reports written in Report Designer are bounded by the limitations the rules editor imposes. This can make the task of reproducing complex macro-driven NPR Reports in Report Designer challenging, and unfortunately, in some cases impossible.

When faced with the impossible, we were compelled to pose the question: What if there was another option? What if there was a means of retrieving M-AT data, while still benefiting from the power and versatility of NPR Report Writer’s macro-driven functionality?

The HCI Solution’s answer to this question is the M-AT Object Module (MOM©). MOM© is a suite of utilities encapsulated within an NPR Report that can be called from other NPR Reports to pull in M-AT data. Regardless of the complexity of the dataset or use case, MOM© can be used to achieve the best of both worlds, the data we want in an editor that provides the power and functionality we need. MOM© can even be used to report on M-AT data that it is not currently possible to report on in Report Designer, or that can only be reported on inefficiently, i.e. with complex rules that will take significantly longer to run than a procedural approach would take. In addition to standard M-AT fields, MOM© can be utilized to report on audit log data and user activity (which Report Designer cannot), Financial Status Desktop statistic details, and can even retrieve data housed within a different HCIS than the HCIS the report is being launched from.

Choosing the best report editor for a use case is important, but it doesn’t need to be daunting. Report Designer and NPR Report Writer are both incredible tools, with strengths that should be leveraged in the report conversion and creation process. With the inclusion of MOM©-enhanced NPR Reports, we are free to choose between either tool, without introducing any barriers between us and the data.

Click here to learn more about The HCI Solution’s M-AT Object Module – MOM©

The HCI Solution Data Services team also provides advanced report writing and report conversion assistance, Click here to check out our services.

The HCI Solution also gives back to the MEDITECH community by providing complimentary beginner to advanced Report Designer Educational Sessions each month. View our upcoming RD Ed Sessions.



Reasons to Upgrade the NextGen Connect Database

Data Exchange

June 1, 2020       Written By: Pedro Jimenez, Director of Interface Engine Services

Your integration engine is the operations data exchange hub of your facility. Adopting measures to maximize its efficiency and reliability are essential to safeguard the flow of data to your mission-critical applications, and as an indirect consequence, enhance patient safety. One of these measures is the selection of a database management system for use by the integration engine. An integration engine consists mainly of two components: 1) the engine itself and 2) a storage component. This storage component is usually in the form of a database management system. The election of a database management system can make or break the operational efficiency and reliability of these critical dataflows. It is for these reasons we recommend considering a NextGen Connect database upgrade and offer a few things to consider while making that decision.

Reasons to Consider the Switch

While the NextGen Connect (formerly Mirth Connect) integration engine includes the open-source Java-based Apache Derby relational database as part of its small system footprint, Apache Derby is still recommended primarily for use in testing environments and very limited use in production environments, especially where the message data is not stored.

There are several good reasons to consider the switch to other relational database management systems which include: 1) more robust database management systems like Microsoft SQL Server, mySQL, Oracle and PostGreSQL, 2) compatibility with enterprise database backup applications and 3) powerful database management tools like Microsoft SQL Server Management Studio, NaviCat and PgAdmin.

The Benefits of More Robust Database Management Systems

Examples include: Microsoft SQL Server, mySQL, Oracle and PostGreSQL. These relational database management applications have established track records for being the backbone of enterprise data. They are known for their reliability, speed, efficiency, versatility, and control of database size growth; all of these traits are critical to the high transaction environments in which integration engines are employed.

Compatibility with Enterprise Database Backup Applications

Enterprise database backup applications are designed to create incremental or single snapshot backups of data stored in these systems. A well-run information technology operation includes scheduled datastore backups as part of daily operations. There are software solutions offered by the database management system manufacturer or by third-party vendors that address this need. Having a database management system that can readily integrate with these enterprise backup solutions can make the job of safeguarding stored data much easier and more cost-effective.

Powerful Database Management Utilities

These utilities provide a user interface that allows database administrators to manage and control how data is handled by the database management system. While there are several database front-end client tools available for Apache Derby, there is a greater number of applications offered by the database manufacturers and third-party vendors offering more comprehensive features. For example: Workbench and NaviCat for MySQL, Management Studio for Microsoft SQL Server, and PgAdmin for PostGreSQL provide graphical user interface tools that allow users to access and manage the data contained within these databases. Most of these examples have been regarded as industry-standard tools for decades.

The good news is not only does NextGen Connect support MySQL, SQL Server, Oracle and PostGreSQL, but it is also extremely easy to migrate to other database management systems at any time, even after Nextgen Connect installation. With some basic planning (and practice on a virtual machine to ensure success), migration to a new database system can be safe, easy, and worry-free.

Pedro Jimenez, The HCI Solution’s Director of Interface Engine Services, explains the planning and execution of the database switching process in a step-by-step video titled Upgrading the Database in Mirth®/ NextGen®Connect which is part of the “Interface Engine How-To Series” multi-part video training series. You can watch this fourth installment by clicking here.



7 Ways to Limit the Work From Home Struggle

May 1, 2020                        Written By: Samantha Cameron, Business Manager

During these difficult times we have seen a rise in traditional office goers working from home in an effort to “flatten the curve”. Working from home can be challenging, especially in an uncontrolled environment that may include stir-crazy kids, significant others, and/or pets that aren’t used to you being home 24/7. Working remotely takes great discipline and organization to be successful and productive, but it is achievable. The HCI Solution was ahead of the working from home trend with 100% remote employees from the start of our incorporation. Because of the current COVID-19 pandemic, working remotely has quickly become the “new normal” so we felt inspired to offer these 7 ways to limit the work from home struggle.

1) Designate your office space

If you don’t have an office try to designate a quiet area with minimal distractions and traffic as your “office”. Communicate to other members of your household that this is where you’ll be working and to try and avoid that area if possible.

2) Keep regular working hours

Yes you are working from home, and working from home offers more flexibility in many ways. However, sticking to a daily schedule and setting normal work hours not only helps you but also your family. If they know you are working 8-4 or 9-5 then they know when to expect you. This way you also know you’re putting in the hours your workplace requires.

3) Set rules and boundaries

Once you have your office space and hours established make sure to communicate your plan to the other members of your household and set necessary boundaries. Explain to them that noise should be limited in that area during those times.

4) Stick to a daily routine

Obviously, parts of your daily routine have changed if you’ve transitioned from office to home. However, sticking to a routine as close to your normal routine as possible will help, especially if/when the time comes to head back into the office. Whether you start your day with coffee, a shower, whatever it may be; continue to start your days the same way as before. You might use what would normally be your drive time to do things around the house so you aren’t distracted during the day or offer that time to your family and/or pets so they are less likely to interrupt while you are working.

5) Stretch regularly throughout your day

Even if you normally work a desk job, when working from home you are less active than you would be if you were going into the office. Try to stretch periodically throughout the day to invigorate and refocus while also preventing soreness from sitting too long.

6) Invest in your technology and know how to use it

You may not have much say in the equipment that is provided to you but one item we highly recommend investing in is a quality headset. One that limits background noise and has a muting option. We use phone conferencing with screen share and having high quality head sets helps tremendously. Also, make sure you familiarize yourself with the technology you’re using. Prepare for meetings early and make sure everything is functioning properly and that you know how to use the tools at your disposal.

7) Keep it clean

Last but certainly not least, keep it clean! Good hygiene is about more than just who sees or smells you, it’s about being healthy and just feeling better all around. Also, keep your workspace clean and clutter free. Organization is key to working from home and if you have a cluttered desk it can be a major distraction.

We’ve all had the worries of noisy family in the background and distractions while working remotely. These things are going to happen at times. No one knows exactly what the future holds, but if we had to guess, remote jobs are only going to increase in popularity and we truly believe by following the 7 tips provided, you too can be successful in a work from home environment.

To learn about The HCI Solution CLICK HERE




The Three A’s of Selecting a Downtime Solution

April 10, 2020                        Written By: Ken Hoffman, President/Owner

In all different downtime scenarios, time and money, as well as staff and patient safety can be easily compromised. In today’s world, efficiency and accuracy are of upmost importance when it comes to medical care. Planned downtimes take a lot of time and preparation to continue running day to day operations safely and smoothly. Unplanned downtimes can leave you debilitated and vulnerable without a solution in place. Downtime Solutions are key to keeping businesses up and running without compromising productivity and safety. There are many different downtime solutions to consider, but how does one decide which of these to adopt? We recommend considering the three A’s when selecting a downtime solution: Availability, Adaptability, and Accountability.

The three A’s to consider when selecting a Downtime Solution:

1) Availability: The most common HCIS downtimes are planned.  However, most downtime solutions are designed for planned and unplanned HCIS downtimes.  What’s commonly overlooked when selecting a downtime solution is whether or not it addresses technical planned or unplanned downtimes.  Technical downtimes are the nightmare CIO’s and IT personnel may encounter in their professional life.  Though extremely rare, addressing technical downtime is a must when considering different downtime solutions.  Technical downtimes happen when you lose your internal network to specific locations or even facility wide.  Downtime solutions need to address this with either local “stand-alone” downtime PC’s and/or cellular cloud solutions.  Selecting a solution that meets all downtime possibilities will keep your user’s ready for patient care and keep senior management from asking why you weren’t ready.

2) Adaptability: Think about using a software solution 3-5 times per year.  How familiar is that software going to be to you?  Downtime solutions are used so infrequently the typical user will have limited memory of its usage within 3 weeks.  Having worked with downtime solutions for over 20 years, the most common complaint is familiarity.  The key factor in a downtime solution’s successful adaptability is ease of use and familiarity.  If a downtime solution is easily accessible during HCIS or technical downtimes, and looks and functions like your uptime solution, your adaptability could be 100%.

3) Accountability: With the goal of ease of use for your downtime solution you don’t want to sacrifice usage tracking abilities.  When we talk about a HCIS downtime it’s not typically a problem with tracking user access since most will use HCIS or AD credentials to log on.  But what about technical downtimes when HCIS or AD isn’t available?  It’s important to make sure your downtime solutions have comprehensive audits to track patient content access during all types of downtime.

We at The HCI Solution trust that if you select a downtime solution using the three A’s outlined, you can continue to run operations smoothly without compromising the high standard of care everyone expects and strives for. The HCI Solution’s answer to this problem is the ContinuITy™ Downtime Portal.  Continuity Downtime Portal was created in a hospital with their needs in mind.  We encourage you to explore and utilize the resources we have provided below. Don’t allow your workflow to be negatively impacted by any kind of downtime, be prepared and be safe.

REGISTER HERE to attend our ContinuITy™ webinar Tuesday, October 6th @ 2pm EST.

To learn about The HCI Solution’s ContinuITy™ Downtime Portal CLICK HERE

CONTACT US to set up a free demo at a time convenient for you.




Manage Reporting Workflow with DefinITy

DefinITy Report Tracking & Governance

February 3, 2020                        Written By: Jim Smith, Director of Data Services

In my previous post regarding MPI consolidation, we observed how a conversion/upgrade effort, though an intensive undertaking, presents many opportunities to improve our organization and workflow. One of these opportunities is how we can improve our data governance, specifically the process of evaluating and planning our reporting needs. This is most apparent during a platform change, and that will be the use case I’ll be focusing on, but the same considerations can be applied whether we are in the process of upgrading our HCIS or during the maintenance cycle.

Reporting is central to our day-to-day operations and long-term planning, and over time we accrue hundreds of essential reports, distributed throughout our HCIS and depended on by our multi-disciplined user base. When planning for an upgrade, many of these reports will need to be rewritten in light of enhanced functionality and changes present in the new system. In 2018, our development partner Halifax Health completed their upgrade from MEDITECH Client Server to MEDITECH Expanse. Planning for this upgrade, Halifax needed a way to evaluate the full scope of their accumulated reports and effectively determine the best way to consume the report governance elephant.

We begin by answering a series of questions, based on our particular upgrade effort. Such as: Exactly how many reports do we currently have? How can this number be reduced? Out of these reports, we want to determine relevance, and if relevant, then priority and upgrade requirements. What type of report is it, i.e. NPR Report Writer or Data Repository? Is the application the report references changing platforms (NPR to M-AT)? Does the latest MEDITECH version provide standard functionality that makes the report obsolete? Once these questions have been answered, we can begin to delegate the individual reports to internal or external resources that will be responsible for rebuilding and testing the reports in the new MEDITECH platform.

DefinITy is our report tracking and governance solution that was born out of Halifax Health’s planning and analysis effort. DefinITy facilitates the upgrade process by providing a means to easily track and manage the steps from report discovery and analysis through testing and finalizing the new report version. Existing report metadata and usage criteria are loaded into the DefinITy database, and then assigned an owner, i.e. the user responsible for determining the relevance of the report. Report owners can then manage their list of reports, by canceling reports no longer needed, or confirming the request for an upgrade of the report, adding any additional details or requirements. Requested reports are then assigned to a resource for tracking the completion of the new version of the report.

Sound planning and consideration ensure that we make the most of the opportunities presented to us during an upgrade effort. Using a tool to manage and track the report update process in phases, allows us to focus on the upgrade as a whole while delegating out the details to the correct resources. To assist sites with this process, The HCI Solution offers a complementary report analysis, providing a high-level overview of a site’s current reporting footprint and usage, and highlighting those reports that will be impacted by platform upgrades. We also offer a full suite of Data Services, in the event that you are looking for external resources to assist with your reporting needs, regardless of your MEDITECH version.

Please feel free to check out our no-obligation Request a Quote Form

To learn more about The HCI Solution’s DefinITy  CLICK HERE.