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Wednesday, December 16, 2009 10:08 PM

The Report Designer – A first look

Written by Joe Cocuzzo, Senior VP of Report Writing Services - iatricSystems

With the release of a new set of applications on a new platform, MEDITECH is developing the Report Designer, a new tool to build reports. The fledgling version of the tool was delivered to Doylestown Hospital just prior to their go-live in May of 2008, and it continues to evolve.

 Currently it can only access data from 6.0/FOCUS applications, but for release 6.1 MEDITECH promises to add the ability to incorporate data from Client/Server applications. Until that feature is released, sites will have to use a special tool to combine C/S from an NPR Report and 6.0 data from a Report Designer report. This tool is called "the stapler."

MEDITECH has a thirty-six minute overview of the new tool at Although the Report Designer has been enhanced since the presentation was prepared, you can get a good feel for the general design by watching the presentation. Only a very simple report is presented, and sometimes the presentation just read prompts: "the Allow to be Scheduled field determines if this report can be scheduled," but this is probably unavoidable in a generic overview.

What are the general design differences between the new Report Designer and the tried and true NPR Report Writer? As one of the few people who wishes Crystal Reports was more like the NPR Report Writer, I'll try to give a fair summary.

  • Allows you to combine data from multiple applications, DPMs (called Objects), and Segments (called Records) and to use multiple indexes in one report. No special program calls or fragments are needed to cross applications.
  • Incorporates more point and click functionality. Picking the set of fields for a report is faster, fields can pull their own default column headers or prompts from the data definition, and only fields from the segments (or records) and their possessives are shown in the field lookup.
  • Places all the selected fields on the Layout in one operation, with the option to arrange fields with or without column headers and arranged horizontally or vertically.
  • Spreads across nine pages instead of the three pages of NPR, but it is possible that the more efficient field selection process and automatic field and column header placement feature will make report building faster and easier. We can dream, can't we?
  • Does not allow the user to write 6.0/FOCUS or F/S code directly. Computed fields are built using Rules and a Rule Wizard. This limitation of the tool causes me the most concern. One of the most powerful features of the NPR report writer is its ability to incorporate MAGIC code in computed fields, line attributes, and macros. Whether rules and pre-built attributes can provide similar power and flexibility remains to be seen. I hate to see the phrase "no programming required" on any piece of software and am happiest when a product comes with an 800 page manual rather than a three page "quick start guide," so I may be in the geeky minority in hoping for a mechanism to use F/S or FOCUS code in my reports.
  • Allows you to save draft versions of a report, to create undo points and go back to them, and provides an in use warning if you are in a report in another session (and presumably if another user is in the report editing).
  • Makes it easier to create download (now called "export format") reports. However, it does not seem possible to create a regular format (designed to be printed) and then convert it to an export format. Possibly I am missing something and there is some way to convert one to the other.

Just added in the latest version is the ability to upload and download report definitions, but with a report definition like this, I don’t think we'll see a Report Designer Viewer from Tom Tarbottom anytime soon.


Report definition download

Next time, I'll look at the new database design and terminology and more about report writing.