For a healthcare provider, instant access to patient information is vital to care quality. A longtime iSeries 400 shop, VCP needed to provide up-to-date access to information and images with user interfaces that exceeded the capabilities of the 400's green-screen. VCP used ASNA Visual RPG (AVR) to not only solve these user interface issues, but also substantially improve IT return-on-investment (ROI) in the process.
Beyond Proof of Concept
"We needed point-and-click user friendliness. Our users were familiar with using browsers and PCs in general. We needed to provide these ubiquitous user interfaces, but with fast and reliable underlying connections to our bedrock iSeries 400 data," says Pete Hall, development analyst for VCP.
When Pete started at VCP, he had a little Visual Basic experience, but most of his real-world application development skills were rooted in the iSeries 400 and its green-screen world. AVR had been purchased prior to Pete's arrival, but because of time constraints, not much more than a few applications had ever been built with it.
VCP had selected AVR because of its natural extension of an iSeries 400 programmer's skill set. With AVR, iSeries programmers can quickly be productive and effective. The learning curve is low, but the payoffs are substantial. The challenge at VCP was that pending deadlines on green-screen projects kept pushing AVR-coded solutions to the back burner. AVR needed a champion at Virtual Care Provider.
Pete picked up the challenge. Along his way to charting a course to learn a little about AVR and what it could do, he started writing a patient record retrieval application. At first, the emphasis was on simply creating a more interactive, inviting user interface.
"Once I got started on the project, I began to see the bigger picture and the potential that AVR offered our business," relates Pete. Within about two months, he had used AVR to replace an aging, outdated application. The payoff from that one AVR application was huge. Not only did Pete replace an aging, ineffective system in short order, but his work also saves VCP a substantial amount of money.
Pete says the AVR ROI improvement doesn't stop there. "We've also written several other Windows GUI applications that contribute to the timely resolution of Accounts Receivable issues and help maintain compliance with government regulations, both things that cost real money, right off the bottom line." AVR is clearly a money-saver for clients!
Pushing the Envelope
With his first ROI-generating AVR application under his belt, Pete quickly notified management that connecting real-time to the corporate iSeries 400 could be done effectively by exploiting the skills of existing iSeries programming team members. Pete and one other RPG coder spend most of their time coding with AVR now.
"With AVR, we've proven that what's perceived as simply a PC application can be mission-critical and can connect real-time to the iSeries 400," explains Pete. "Thanks to AVR, we can now implement PC programs that mean business!" Pete's AVR applications are used by remote users across the United States through VCP's WAN.
Pete's AVR-based solutions range from traditional fat Windows clients solutions to a browser-based inquiry and data entry application. "I really pushed the envelope on the browser-based application. It uses XML and XSL to render data to the browser. Building the interactive client interface with some of Microsoft's beta XML/XSLT components was a bit of a challenge. That project pushed my green-screen skills well beyond what I could have ever done with them staying on the iSeries 400."
What does Pete like best about AVR (beside how good it is at making him the hero!)? Pete likes its simple and secure connection to the iSeries 400 and how naturally his green-screen skills play in the AVR development cycle. With AVR, there is very little to learn in order to create terrific, modern applications. And the proof is in the pudding: Pete was very quickly able to demonstrate the usefulness of AVR and overcome management resistance by showing that he could produce GUI and browser-based applications for the current green-screen staff.
AVR Is a Great Fit
Pete concludes by saying, "At Virtual Care Provider, AVR is a great fit. We're able to create effective, robust graphical and browser-based applications that connect quickly and reliably to our iSeries 400. Our users are going to be seeing lots of AVR applications in the future!"
Roger Pence is ASNA's education director. Prior to joining ASNA three years ago, Roger worked for many years as a journalist, speaker, and technical editor in the AS/400 community.
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