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U Arizona Adopts Mainframe in College of Pharmacy Program

A college within the University of Arizona has gone public with its use of a new-generation IBM mainframe to analyze millions of medical claims every week. The College of Pharmacy, which has 475 students in its pharmacy-related degree programs, also runs a Medication Management Center, a call center staffed with pharmacists for improving medication use.

The center was launched with the introduction of Medicare's Part D drug coverage program to deliver a personalized service to optimize the health outcomes of individual patients. Patients can call the center to sort out therapy solutions and set up dosing schedules for new medications. The center also reviews medication records to identify unnecessary, duplicate, or dangerous combinations of therapies. Since its founding in 2006, a million Medicare patients have vetted their medicine usage decisions through the center.

To aid its physicians, the college developed a proprietary health information technology platform that analyzes millions of pharmacy claims with billions of data elements to identify potential drug-related problems.

Previously, the system ran on an Apple Mac OS-based network. In late 2012 the college moved the application to an IBM zEnterprise mainframe running IBM DB2 database software on Linux. According to a statement from the company, medical claim processing now takes up 60 percent less time and batch processing of records can take place during regular business hours without disruptions to operations. Adoption of the mainframe has also future-proofed the college, which expects membership in the medical management program to grow from 2.5 million people to more than 10 million in the near future.

"Among the number of reasons we chose the IBM's zEnterprise platform was its reliability and almost unlimited scalability," said Kevin Barber, associate director of the center. "zEnterprise allows us to focus on the applications and service we deliver to our patients and not on the constant maintenance of our hardware and software technology."

The college was helped in its system migration by IBM partner Sirius Computer Solutions.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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