vdek introduces new Data Warehouse solution

The TIMETOACT GROUP supports the Verband der Ersatzkassen e. V. in the switch from a system environment to the latest IBM technology.

The Verband der Ersatzkassen e. V. (Association of Association of Health Insurance). (vdek), with 650 employees nationwide, represents the interests and provides the services of all substitute health insurance associations, which together insure almost 28 million people in Germany. Representing interests means, among other things, making recommendations on pricing or negotiating nationwide contractual decisions in the healthcare sector. To do this, they need data - huge amounts of performance and statistical information that come together in a central Data Warehouse and are analyzed there. At vdek, this has recently been the data and AI platform IBM Cloud Pak for Data System.

  • Previously used appliance solution "IBM PureData for Analytics, powered by Netezza" (PDA) was discontinued by IBM
  • Requirements for the alternative:
    • Same functions as PDA
    • As little effort as possible for the migration of the approximately 2000 tables in 770 processing steps 
    • Compatibility of the tools for Business Intelligence and ETL used in the previous Data Warehouse with the new solution
  • IBM Cloud Pak for Data with PostgreSQL as the successor solution to PDA: the same database system, just the next generation.
  • Support from TIMETOACT during installation and migration of the previous database technology to the new system
Added value:
  • Preconfigured, regulated, and secure high-performance environment as package on premise
  • Use of Artificial Intelligence across the enterprise through Watson Studio integration
  • Improved performance
  • Processing of data at high speed

Low maintenance appliance

TIMETOACT GROUP supported the association in the installation and migration of its previous database technology to the new system. IBM was already in use beforehand, in the form of the appliance solution "IBM PureData for Analytics, powered by Netezza" (PDA). Appliances – a combination of hardware and software – are the basis for a stable Data Warehouse infrastructure at many companies; the vdek also swears by them. "Operating a warehouse with large amounts of data is very time-consuming and requires a high level of personnel capacity," says Jana Wiedenfeld, head of the Online Procedures unit in the vdek's IT department. "The maintenance effort of an appliance, on the other hand, is extremely low."

After IBM discontinued the PDA generation, the association had to look for an alternative. The condition was that it had to offer the same functions and that the effort required to migrate the approximately 2,000 tables in 770 processing steps had to be as low as possible. The Business Intelligence and ETL tools used in the previous Data Warehouse should also be compatible with the new solution. The vdek uses Microstrategy as its BI tool; this passes on SQL queries to the database based on the data entered in the front end. Extract, Transform, Load (ETL) is a process in which data from several data sources, which may have different structures, is combined in a target database. 

Low migration effort due to same database system

In close coordination with IBM and TIMETOACT GROUP as technology partner, Jana Wiedenfeld and her IT team selected the successor solution and determined the project approach. "Initially, we had considered another IBM instance, an appliance based on DB2," explains the IT specialist. "However, this would have meant a complete database change, with adaptation of all interfaces and processes" – probably a resource-consuming effort lasting several months, which the vdek did not want to risk. It therefore opted for Cloud Pak for Data with PostgreSQL as the direct successor to PDA: the same database system, just the next generation. "The whole ETL processes just had to be reorganized as a result," says Jana Wiedenfeld.

After procurement and delivery by IBM, TIMETOACT installed and configured the system in mid-2020, installed the software packages, brought them up to date, and finally migrated the previous solution to IBM Cloud Pak for Data System. 

The new Hybrid Cloud platform provides vdek with a preconfigured, regulated and secure high-performance environment as a package on premise. It is based on the Red Hat OpenShift container platform and is designed to capture, organize and analyze data. By integrating Watson Studio with Cloud Pak for Data, the association can now leverage Artificial Intelligence across the enterprise.

Marc BastienSolution Architect Analytics TIMETOACT

Develop programs with Business Intelligence

A significant improvement when working with the new appliance is its higher performance. Without any changes to data models or the structure of the database, queries run almost four times faster in the new system, and load processes almost twice as fast compared to the predecessor. It clearly pays off when performing BI analyses. With Cloud Pak for Data System, data can be prepared at high speed so that administrators can use their BI tools to draw reports from it. This makes it possible, for example, to decide more quickly how structured care programs, such as diabetes, can be further developed. Based on physician billing and data on regional changes in mortality, recommendations can be made for annual contract negotiations for physician programs. "The substitute health insurance funds also use our BI to monitor the development of their drug prescriptions and prices in comparison to the overall statutory health insurance system. Based on this, it can be decided whether tenders for discounts can be launched for certain groups of drugs," reports Jana Wiedenfeld.

The new IBM appliance is therefore an important aid for the vdek in making contractual decisions. The amount of data in the healthcare sector is also growing year by year. Channeling this data requires modern equipment – which TIMETOACT GROUP provided to the association with minimal migration effort.

Used technologies

The Verband der Ersatzkassen e. V. (vdek) is the association representing the interests of Germany's substitute health insurance funds at the federal and state levels, as well as a provider of services. It represents the interests of its members in Germany at the state and national level in negotiations with service providers and political decision-makers. The association supports and advises member health insurance funds and their long-term care insurers in carrying out their tasks and provides legal support. They include Techniker Krankenkasse (TK), BARMER, DAK-Gesundheit, KKH Kaufmännische Krankenkasse, hkk - Handelskrankenkasse and HEK - Hanseatische Krankenkasse. 

Branch: Association for substitute health insurance funds
Employees: approx. 650
Location: Berlin

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Marc Bastien
TIMETOACT Software & Consulting GmbHContact