Optical Storage Helps Insurance Fund Work Through Its Document Managment Problems

The Injured Workers' Insurance Fund (IWIF) in Towson, MD is the state's leading writer of workers' compensation insurance. In the 1980s, IWIF grew dramatically, and a business process re-engineering effort was undertaken in the early 1990s. To handle its eight million stored records (document pages), and the addition of more than a million new records per year, IWIF installed a comprehensive data management, imaging and workflow system, designed to assure the best possible customer service through improved handling of claims.

System Configuration
The fund's primary data management system, containing claims records, medical system tables and policy services records, is the Workers' Compensation Information System (WCIS) developed by Price waterhouse in Bethesda, MD. This is built around an Oracle database, using Oracle Forms with sub-applications, triggers and reports written in C programming language. WCIS also serves as a platform for the Fund's mission critical imaging and workflow applications, designed by Digital Equipment Corp., Information Management Consultants and the IWIF staff. These applications and the user interface are written in C and X Window/Motif.

The workflow system is configured with more than 270 workstations, including six clusters (averaging 40 seats per cluster) for workflow applications and a scanning subsystem cluster with 35 worksations. The enterprise wide system is linked by Ethernet, with fiber bridges between servers. Optical storage libraries capable of storing 30 million pages are online, and the images from these libraries are downloaded to magnetic storage at each server to support the workflow applications.

System Functionality
The scanning and production system are designed as separate applications, with shared databases containing object pointers to minimize the impact of database updates on system performance. Incoming documents generate 15,000-plus transactions daily, and 30,000 images (at approximately 50 KB per image) are moved/processed each day within the scanning and indexing application.

Indexers read and classify incoming documents and add them to the appropriate workflow. Workflow can also be triggered by events within WCIS (the host). In either case, the workflow system determines which documents are needed for each stage of the claim handling process. The application assembles these documents (work items) and assures that the necessary document images are available to appropriate workgroups for action. Much of this pre-assembly and prestaging is performed overnight. As a result, workers typically can locate and view the document files they need during the day in two to five seconds.

Optical Storage Libraries
Two Cygnet optical storage libraries, with four optical drives each, provide online storage capacity of 1,255GB. The libraries are busiest at night when pre-assembly and prestaging (caching) take place.

IWIF used an innovative approach for data storage architecture within the optical libraries. Stored documents are located by how frequently the data is accessed (storage by "temperature"). "Hot" disks are kept in or near a jukebox drive to minimize access time and jukebox exchanges, while less frequently used, "cool" data, is stored separately.

System Success
The WCIS and its imaging/workflow subsystems have been showcased in industry magazines. The facility is frequently visited by information system managers for government and private insurance handling organizations. IWIF management feels that the program's success is largely due to the extensive involvement of staff members in the re-engineering process. Superintendent Donald W. Potter says: "Although the right architecture and design can ensure that a system will work, the real credit belongs to our employees. They know the workers' compensation business, and show great understanding of the whole computer system with respect to the goals of the fund." The fund is now well-situated to meet the future needs of MD's workers' compensation system.