BAM vendors race ahead of curve

By Jack Beaudoin
12:00 AM

WITH TWO HIGH-PROFILE launches underway and a bevy of new vendors eyeing the healthcare vertical, business activity monitoring (BAM) is primed to be the NBT – the next big thing. Given healthcare's feudal IT history and its efforts to overcome heterogeneous computing environments, the industry should be ripe for applications that can help managers make business process decisions in real-time.

"I'm not sure healthcare is the best candidate for BAM right now," says Gartner analyst Jim Klein. "But there are good reasons why it could be."

Klein says that if any good has come out of the legacy computing environment that's an artifact of departmental systems, it's that "healthcare has almost single handedly discovered integration brokers, interface engines and messaging." In an enterprise where computer systems are zinging messages back and forth across the pipes, it's not, Klein says, particularly had to imagine overlaying business process management tools to "tap in" to those messages. "It's a trove of information," Klein notes.

The newest entrant is Foresight, based in Columbus, Ohio. Foresight launched Transaction Insight in mid-May and claims its product "is the first to apply the technology of business activity monitoring specifically to the challenges associated with healthcare transaction processing."

"This is the magical payoff of HIPAA that people have been looking for," says Foresight CEO Robert Fisher. "If all companies do is change the formats of their transactions, they get government off their backs but no ROI."Transaction Insight sits between systems that interact on a regular basis. For example, it could scan claims sent to payers for any errors that would cause a claim to be kicked back. "It takes all the human beings out of the resolution loop except the guy who has to fix it," Fisher says. "The guy in billing gets an alert, clicks a URL and gets a Web rendering of the flawed claim. He can correct it right there on the screen, in real time."

Like other BAM tools, Transaction Insight offers users a dashboard that displays metrics for any piece of data in a communications stream. A provider could monitor the length of time it takes to get lab results, while payers could analyze quality outcomes among its providers.

BAM also garnered its share of attention in February, when InterSystems announced its business activity monitoring framework at the 2004 HIMSS Conference and Exhibition. The BAM tools were a major enhancement of Ensemble, InterSystems' rapid integration platform, and like the Foresight offering, provided graphical representations of real-time business processes.

"It's the convergence of real-time integration and real-time business intelligence," said Trevor Matz, InterSystems' managing director for enterprise application integration. "You're fusing real-time intelligence with real-time reporting and real-time business monitoring."

RulesPower refers to its product as business process management, or BPM, but the gist is the same. "We're focused on improving workflow, process automation, and interfacing legacy systems," says president and CEO Steve Campbell, who believes healthcare's potential benefit from BPM/BAM is rivaled only by the insurance and financial services verticals.

Gartner's Klein isn't ready to declare 2004 the Year of BAM, but he says the potential is there as technologies such as XML and SOA make messages out of data that were never intended to be messages.

"We're not anywhere near crossing the chasm," Klein says. "Visionaries are only beginning to talk about it. I don't even know of a pilot program going on right now. But it does have great potential in healthcare and these vendors are attempting to get out in front."

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