Integration and the Ratchet-X AppSpace

We’ve recently completed an integration project using Ratchet-X, the code-free integration tool from RatchetSoft. And once again it has proven to be one of the most useful applications I’ve come across. RatchetSoft claims to be able to integrate your desktop applications with anything, and after my experience with them it’s hard to argue that they wouldn’t be able to. The interface definitely requires some familiarization – you likely couldn’t come in off the street and pick up this application – but that doesn’t mean it’s difficult, just that you’ll need some guidance. But with the eminently affordable professional services options available to you from RatchetSoft and from Scanfree, you can’t go too far wrong.

Vantari Genetics, a genomics testing company based in Irvine, CA, provides lab tests for various hospitals and doctors across the United States. Vantari chose ImageSilo after a poor experience with another document management provider. Scanfree’s long time partner HSMG specializes in document management and integration projects for healthcare service providers, and brought Scanfree in to install and manage a premises-based scanning solution using PaperVision Capture. They use PaperVision Capture for processing lab results with automated uploads to ImageSilo taking place multiple times per day, for immediate access by staff at any Vantari office.

As usual, the PaperVision Capture implementation went smoothly. Using some internal databases we started generating 2D bar codes using the PDF417 format, which are applied via labels as test requests and results come in to the mailroom. Currently we’re only reading a 10-digit accession ID as the primary index value, but the PDF417 format ensures we can expand that data capture, should they feel the need to do so. They already worked with a batch mentality so it was easy enough to convert their paper-process batches to PaperVision batches. They work with relatively small data batches, submit each set of docs as it is scanned with a visual verification checking all the bar codes have read correctly (with no failures thus far, that’s after a few weeks of running high numbers of documents = not too shabby) – PaperVision processes the data, cleans up images and uploads to ImageSilo in an automated process; within 30 minutes of batch submission the data is online and accessible.

But that was only half the game for Vantari. One of Vantari’s main line-of-business applications is developed (and hosted) by Xifin, a San Diego, CA-based software company that provides a popular practice management, revenue management and billing solution for labs, radiology clinics and more. Xifin offers a series of hosted web services and portals, and Vantari use Xifin MARS, Xifin’s web-based billing solution. There were 6-8 key screens that Vantari wanted to integrate so that users could immediately access lab results when required. But as MARS is a hosted system in a shared architecture, integration options, while available, were going to prove costly if we had to get developers involved. Simple integrations should not have to cost so much. Enter Ratchet-X.

In a nutshell, Ratchet-X works at the desktop level, analysing and interpreting (nay, dissecting) the Windows desktop environment (not to mention browser windows, and, more recently, Java environments). Operating in this space gives Ratchet-X a detached sort of freedom – they call it, aptly, the AppSpace. In this space, Ratchet-X can read and analyse data and relative positioning of that data on specific screens to extract or transfer (i.e., paste) that data wherever it needs to go, incorporating scripts and API’s if required. If it sounds a bit like screen-scraping of yesteryear, you’re not a million miles off… but it’s light years beyond screen-scraping. I can’t possibly do it justice here, but suffice it to say that the level of depth and the options available to the Ratchet-X “developer”* will almost certainly fulfil their (and your) ambition to “integrate everything.” *(note: development skills are not strictly required, but an understanding of programming logic would be beneficial)

As a matter of fact, let me quickly expand on that: I used a pre-built ImageSilo integration script codenamed RX4PVE; other similar scripts exist for a variety of products in lots of different verticals. These can be used to perform simple integrations like the Xifin to ImageSilo link we created in 2 short days. But the raw product, Ratchet-X sans scripts, is so deep, and so powerful, that there’s almost no limit to where it can be applied. Scanfree’s next Ratchet-X project is already lined up: we will be integrating PeopleSoft with a workflow tool to simplify data entry for a large healthcare provider.

Frighteningly, I see huge potential uses for it in everyday AP and HR Microsoft Excel-based nightmare scenarios. You know what I mean – those spreadsheets that companies have used since spreadsheets were invented, that let them manage and manipulate data sets without having to involve IT or build complex databases. I say ‘frighteningly’ because I’m not one to encourage use of the Excel spreadsheets, but let’s face it – they’re still incredibly popular in companies of all sizes, and in that sense Ratchet-X promises more stability and consistency than a lot of other user-developed ‘solutions’ that are currently employed. And it can’t be beat for cost, so I can see a genuine value there, even if I think the spreadsheets are a nightmare.

But I digress. Working with RatchetSoft’s senior support staff, we quickly identified available integration points in the Xifin MARS browser-based interface. Using regular expressions we pinpointed the windows, frames, and data areas from which we wanted to extract the search criteria. Then we used the pre-written ImageSilo scripts to lock in our search criteria and entity/project information for each type of search. It took us a few short hours with RatchetSoft to get up to speed on the best methods to use for the Xifin portions of the integration, and we continued on our own thereafter. By the latter half of the second day we had integrated all of the relevant screens and we ready to package up our integrated solution. And this, I have to say, is incredibly slick.

I won’t go into too much detail, but the packaging process that is built into Ratchet-X allows you to collect and compile all components of the integration you just developed. Remember, no code has been written and no changes have been made to either of the integrated applications. At the end of the packaging process you are left with a self-contained EXE or MSI. You can then ask any IT person to install across as many desktops as required, or use push mechanisms to install on client machines across your network. And with RatchetSoft’s “not-concurrent” licensing mechanism, that means you can push it out to everyone and really get more bang for your buck. Contact us to learn more about that innovative licensing model.

The next time users logged into Xifin, they were greeted with the Ratchet-X ‘magic button’ (unfortunate naming, again, I know, but it is sort of magical considering the lengths you might otherwise have to go through to get two hosted products integrated). Here’s what the ImageSilo magic button looks like:

Ratchet-X Magic Button

That magic button (in the upper-right, next to the minimize button) only shows up when the user is on an integrated screen – optionally, when it shows up an audible little chirp plays to notify the user they are on an integrated screen. When the user clicks the button, the document automatically opens in a separate window. Magic.

This installation, which, all told, took 3-3.5 days including roll-out and support, has run for nearly three weeks as of this writing, and we’ve had almost no support issues. Those we did have were very minor and easily resolved (not specific to the integration but rather to unique settings on certain user desktops). And the client is absolutely over the moon – the cost-savings, both in development costs and now, with integration fully functional, in the time savings for their personnel in finding these documents, has been immense. Vantari has already approached us about their next integration project and we look forward to working on that before autumn settles in.

You’ll hear about it here first. All the best til next time.

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PaperVision Capture Code: Find Duplicates in Batch

Scanfree develops PaperVision Capture Code and Custom Functions for End-users and Service Providers.

A few Scanfree clients run very large batches through their PaperVision Capture stations. In some cases they’re running PaperVision Capture Automated Import Queues (AutoImport1.xml and AutoImport2.xml) that get created nightly. Others run large manual imports via the PaperVision Capture Operator Console. Whether automatic or manual, a scanning bureau will often find they have duplicates in a batch. Either duplicated images or, at the document level, duplicate metadata (index) field values.

PaperVision Capture maintains the old “Merge Like Documents” from PaperFlow 7.x days, This handy function checks index values and merges documents where all values imatch. But what does a scanning bureau manager do when not all index fields are identical, but certain values need to be checked for duplicates? Browsing the batch in the Operator Console is tedious. It’s not always easy to track down those dupes.

Scanfree has developed a solution. It is available now for any PaperVision Capture user. Service bureaus, in particular, will benefit from this (we use it in our scanning bureau), but so can end-users running PaperVision Capture scan stations.

The process is simple. The PaperVision Capture admin creates a job as normal in the Capture Administration Console. In the appropriate Operator workstep, insert a Custom Code command and import Scanfree’s PaperVision Capture Duplicates Report code. Then it’s just a matter of changing a few settings.

A setting within the code will tell the function which fields should be checked for duplicate values. It looks like this:

private string[] PVC_FIELDS_TO_SEARCH_FOR_DUPLICATES = {“Field1”, “Field2”, “Field3″}

Just change the quoted values to the exact field names of the PaperVision Capture Job. Don’t need to check three fields? Just add the one (or two) you’re after. A second setting in the code will define an output location for the report written by the custom code:

private const string REPORT_ROOT_FOLDER = @”C:\Reports\”

In this example we use a folder named Reports on the local C drive, but it could just as well be any accessible network location.

And that’s really all there is to it. The scan operator logs in to the PaperVision Operator Console and processes their batch as they normally would. When they’re ready they select the Execute Custom Code command within the Operator Console. A message will pop up to say the report has been written (or a message to say no duplicates exist). Open the report (which is time-stamp named) and the following report appears:

duplicatevalue1,3
duplicatevalue2,7
duplicatevalue3,4
etc…

OR

dupeval1a,dupeval1b,3
dupeval2a,dupeval2b,7
dupeval3a,dupeval3b,4

These examples show reports with one or two index values being tested, respectively. The final numeric value displays the number of duplicates found for each row item.

To learn more about PaperVision Capture visit our Products section. To learn about Scanfree’s Duplicates Reports go to our Development pages. (INSERT LINKS IN THIS SECTION TO CORRECT PAGES).

And incidentally, you can now run multiple instances of this report wll within the same batch, within the same workstep. For example, first run a duplicates test on Field1/Field2 combined, and then separately run a duplicates test on Field 3. In fact, you can now run as many pieces of custom code as you like all within a single operator workstep. We’ll write more about this one soon, but you can get a tech overview today by visiting the project page for the PaperVision Capture Functions Buttons (INSERT LINK HERE FOR THIS PROJECT).

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WordPress Revisited

I’ve been taking advantage of the slow half-term week to update the Scanfree website. It half makes me want to dedicate more time to WordPress development for companies, especially when I see the state of some of the websites in the document management industry.

I’ve recently expanded my marketing into the PaperVision reseller channel, looking to provide alternatives in the professional services market. This is something we’ve been doing for years, of course, but our recent trip to Colorado only confirmed that there are plenty of PaperVision Capture scanning bureaus that need additional work and support. And there are plenty of old-style PaperFlow bureaus out there, too, still hesitating to make the jump to PaperVision Capture. On some level they know they should make the transfer, but they haven’t quite made the mental leap. The point being, I’ve been googling PaperVision in cities across the world, finding potential partners and resellers who might need Scanfree services, and the state of some of these websites is positively paleolithic.

Which brought me back to my own site – for the better part of a year or so I made do with Design Wall’s Page template for WordPress. It was a single page website with a great design to it, but it limited what I could do somewhat. Oddly it wasn’t until we put a load of time in recently on the financial services tender (which it seems we’re in line to be awarded) that I recognized the need to rebuild. Well, that and the evaluations from AdWords campaigns we’ve been experimenting with. Between Analytics and AdWords you can sink an inordinate amount of time in criticizing every aspect of your website, no matter how tight you think you’ve made it.

But it’s brought me back to the WordPress world, and I really enjoy it as a diversion. I decided to stick with Design Wall again, this time using their Simplex template, which has a lot of similarities to the Page them but with a bit more depth. Now it’s just understanding how to streamline it. The template has a lot of online shopping aspects and we’re not quite ready for that yet, and since we’re not really an interactive blog I need to work on that portion as well. Sometimes too many options is just too many. But there’s no question this is the right choice – I look forward to launching it soon. Will update on here when it’s ready.

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Private Education

Scanfree has been expanding its projects in private education. And by that I do not mean that my extracurriculars with my kids have expanded, although that is also true. In fact I write this blog post outside a half-term gymnastics class, wherein my 5 year old daughter tumbles and bounces. This is the most entertaining way to work, by far.

The American School in London contacted Scanfree in the summer of 2013 – a previous PaperVision installation had suffered some neglect and they were keen to breathe some new life into it. We brought them up to speed on the latest version, reviewed and reloaded existing data with new security parameters, re-established direct scanning for the Counselors and basically got them back to basics. ASL also had an existing set of document scans and other data types from a secondary, older document management system, which we were able to convert using a bit of data manipulation and a PaperVision Directory Manager. Shortly thereafter Scanfree completed a backfile scanning conversion of various record types for two different departments, one of them a new addition. The success of that scanning conversion and the improved document management and scanning functionality has seen the PaperVision user community grow.

Earlier this Spring Scanfree were brought in to perform a server upgrade and transfer – time to move into ASL’s new virtual server environment. Scanfree were able to perform most of the PaperVision transfer remotely, and went on-site for launch day to make sure no users had been affected. And as planned, other than asking counselors not to add anything new for 5 minutes (while internal DNS updated) no one noticed any difference – PaperVision architecture once again proving how well designed it is for these types of transfers – the software just doesn’t fall over if you get it right. I guess that’s one reason ImageSilo sees the high percentage of uptime that it does.

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Data Protection Scanning

We recently completed a large-ish backfile scanning conversion for another client in the education industry. These scanning conversions come in all shapes and sizes, and this one relatively mild, really – but they all come with their own challenges. Luckily, with a combination of a simple PaperFlow scanning process and some further processing in PaperVision Capture, and minimal database manipulation, we were able to process tens-of-thousands of client registration and Data Protection forms, as well as franchisee contracts and leases, in a few short weeks.

Interestingly, with Digitech Systems now releasing the long-awaited PaperVision EForms, the new electronic forms engine built right into PaperVision Enterprise and ImageSilo, the timing could not have been better. These Data Protection Consent Forms are perfect candidates for conversion to a paperless process – no wet signature required, and the data is consistent, if not for the fact that franchisees have developed variations over the years.

Now we’re looking at building that form online as an html electronic form, which will require a sign-on from a valid franchisee and load dir3ectly into the archive. Next step will be to integrate the form into a SharePoint portal with submissions feeding a PaperVision WorkFlow that updates internal databases to the presence of the DPCF.

Contract and Leases may well be on the table, too – Digitech’s supporting Digital Signatures now, and combine PaperVision EForms, WorkFlow and Digital Signatures, and this paper-intensive franchisor may soon be on the road to paperless processing for most franchisee coomunications.

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