Home > Articles > Data

  • Print
  • + Share This
This chapter is from the book

Everyday Transactions

Most of us use databases daily and may not realize it. The following sections describe a few everyday situations in which people access and utilize data from a database. By understanding real-world, daily activities, you will gain a better understanding of database usage and will be able to better apply these concepts to understand the corporate world.

A couple of everyday transactions with which everyone is familiar are

  • Getting a prescription filled

  • Using a bank machine

Getting a Prescription Filled

The next example walks you through a process everyone does at some point—having a prescription filled.

As you are standing in your local pharmacy waiting for your prescription, you may not think that this transaction is database intensive. But, if you were to take a closer look, hundreds of gigabytes of data, maybe terabytes, are involved in this routine transaction.

When you evaluate a transaction like this one, it is helpful to look at one layer of the transaction at a time, peeling away successive layers, just like peeling an onion. Figure 3.8 shows the "layers" of this transaction that you will review.

Figure 3.8Figure 3.8 Transaction layers for a prescription purchase.

The Doctor's Office Databases

You can start by looking back to the beginning of this transaction—at the doctor's office. A database must be kept of each patient, including data elements such as name, address, phone number, insurance carrier, closest relative, medical history, and family history. Billing records, payment receipts, appointment schedules, and insurance filing information make up other databases that are used often.

The Pharmacy Databases

The actual pharmacy has database information that it maintains on a broad range of subjects. The most obvious one is you—the customer. Every pharmacy will have, minimally, a database of customer name and address information, customer date of birth, prescribing physician and phone number, insurance carrier, and past prescription history of each customer.

The insurance company, HMO, or PPO provides each pharmacy with another database that must be used extensively. This database is called the formulary database. It contains an approved list of brand drugs, approved generic substitutions, dosages, and National Drug Code (NDC) information. Your insurance prescription card more than likely has a specific formulary that the pharmacy must reference to ensure that the drug used to fill your prescription, or an allowable substitution, will be covered by your insurance. This type of database may also be used by the physician's office to ensure that the drug they want to prescribe can be filled, without any substitution or dosage change, when you get to the pharmacy.

Another database that is used prior to filling the prescription is the drug interaction database. The prescribed drug may have serious interaction issues if used in conjunction with medications currently in use. The database identifies potential interaction problems, provides a detailed explanation of the interaction consequence, and possibly suggests alternatives.

After the formulary and interaction databases have been utilized, the prescription is ready to fill. The pharmacy inventory database is checked to determine whether the NDC being requested is in stock and at what shelf location it can be found. The inventory database must track expiration dates of each drug to prevent outdated medication from being dispensed. After the prescription is filled, the available on-hand inventory for your medication must be reduced by the quantity or volume of your prescription.

If the medication is not available in stock, the pharmacy must search through its wholesaler database to determine the best source for the drug. The wholesaler database identifies each of the wholesalers from whom the needed drug can be acquired, the cost from the wholesaler, and possibly the inventory availability at the wholesaler.

The final database to be reviewed at the pharmacy is the order database. This database contains all the outstanding orders that have been placed with all the wholesalers. They may represent simple inventory replenishment orders or special orders for drugs not normally stocked. If the orders are for narcotic items, or Schedule 2 drugs, special order and tracking requirements must be met to satisfy the requirements of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Figure 3.9 shows the database entities involved at the pharmacy layer.

Figure 3.9Figure 3.9 Pharmacy layer databases.

The Wholesaler's Database

As you continue to peel away layers in the transaction, you see that the next layer represents the drug wholesaler. The pharmaceutical supply chain in the United States is typically serviced by a wholesaler that operates between the manufacturer and the retail or hospital pharmacy.

The wholesaler layer begins with an extensive customer database. Name, address, billing address, and accounts receivable information are maintained. A customer who represents a large chain, such as K-Mart, may have Ship To destinations all over the country. Each of the Ship To locations must be maintained separately for order tracking and for sales analysis purposes.

A separate database that identifies every drug and strength is used by the wholesaler to ensure that the customer's intent on which drug they want to purchase from the wholesaler is clear and, in turn, to make sure the drug the wholesaler purchases from the manufacturer is explicitly identified. This database, by NDC number, changes frequently with new manufacturers, generic suppliers, dosage changes, and the constant introduction of new drugs. The management of this type of database has spawned new businesses in the pharmaceutical industry because of its complexity and volatility. Many wholesalers purchase this database with quarterly updates to ensure that they have an up-to-date NDC database.

Most national and regional wholesalers have multiple distribution centers, or DCs, located throughout the country or throughout the geographical area they serve. Each of these DCs has an inventory database that is a focal point of their operations. The inventory database must identify each item that the DC stocks, and for each item, many inventory management attributes are tracked. Something as simple as the picking location can include a forward picking location, a backup picking location, a bulk location, a backup bulk location, packaging quantities, packaging dimensions, packaging weights, expiration dates, and lot-tracking information along with inventory quantities at each location. With thousands of items at a DC, you can begin to see the complexity and size of the inventory database required for each DC within a wholesaler's operation.

The wholesaler's database will always include, among other items, a shipping and invoicing database and an accounts receivable database. Figure 3.10 shows the database entities involved at the wholesaler layer.

Figure 3.10Figure 3.10 Wholesaler layer databases.

The Manufacturer's Database

A manufacturer has many databases that are very similar to those of the wholesalers. The supply-chain relationship between pharmacy and wholesaler is very similar to the relationship between wholesaler and manufacturer. There are a few additional databases, though, that are unique to the manufacturing process.

The first unique database you will look at in this layer of the transaction is the product database. The product must contain a list of raw materials, or recipe ingredients, that make up the product. Careful attention must also be given to the manufacturing process. The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) expects every manufacturer to stringently adhere to the recommended process to produce the drug. The database has extensive instructions and quality control data for each step within the routing or operational steps in the manufacturing process.

The other database that is unique to the manufacturer in this transaction is one that tracks the capacity of each manufacturing process. Whether it is a material movement operation, a mixing operation, an application of heat, or a packaging operation, each operation has a finite limitation in terms of hours available and capacity. A complex database is required to look at all the scheduled shop orders, retrieving the lot size of each order, multiplying the shop order quantity by the routing quantity, and then determining the work center or material-handling equipment necessary to complete the operation. Each of these extended routing operations are aggregated by work center and compared to the finite limitations noted earlier. The required due dates of the shop orders are used as a starting point, and the entire process is backward scheduled to determine when the shop order would need to begin to meet the required completion date. When you factor in scheduled and unscheduled maintenance, breakdowns, and required setups and quality inspections, the database necessary to adequately evaluate capacity requirements and material requirements planning is significant. Figure 3.11 shows the database entities involved at the manufacturer layer.

Figure 3.11Figure 3.11 Manufacturer layer databases.

Using Your Bank Machine

The next example involves a transaction that takes only a few minutes to complete—you are going to look at the databases that are used when you visit a bank and use the ATM.

Don't let the quickness of the transaction fool you—the databases are busy whenever you walk up to use the ATM! You will look at the account database and the financial transaction database in a cash withdrawal example.

When you insert your ATM card into the bank machine, the first thing that must be completed is to identify the account number of the user. The user may be using a local bank or may be using another bank that is part of a participating network. The bank must search its account databases and try to find a match within their system. If this fails, the account number can be searched against a database that represents participating banks.

After an account record is identified, the user is prompted for a PIN, or personal identification number. The PIN is verified against a database entry. The transaction, for obvious reasons, is canceled if the user does not supply a matching PIN.

After the PIN verification is completed, the account details are retrieved from the database regarding the types of accounts that you have—checking, savings, or both. The ATM prompts you for the type of transaction you are interested in completing. Typical transactions are deposits, withdrawals, transfer savings to checking, and check account balances. For this transaction, you are going to withdraw cash from your checking account.

Now it's time for you to indicate how much cash you need. A couple of databases must be accessed at this point. The first is easy—determine how much money you currently have in your account. The second is more involved because most ATM systems limit your withdrawal amounts in a 24-hour period. The system issues a SQL select statement against the database to add the transaction amounts of all withdrawal transactions for your account within the most recent 24 hours. If the daily limit minus the returned summed amount is greater than your transaction amount, you get the cash. If not, you will be limited as to how much can be withdrawn, or you may not qualify to receive any cash.

Beyond the portion of the transaction that you see, a couple more databases are being used. The transaction must be recorded, with account number, account type (savings or checking), date, time of day, type of transaction, and amount. This is used to post the transaction to your account and compute your current balance. This is the database of transactions that you see on your statement at the end of your banking period. The transaction is also used to post to the general ledger database for the bank. If any ATM charges apply, these annoying charges are recorded in the transaction database described previously.

The final database is composed of ACH (Automated Clearinghouse) transactions that are forwarded to the Federal Reserve System so that banks can clear transactions across the country. Each of these transactions are logged to a transaction database for reconciliation purposes in the event of a failure within banking computer systems.

  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account

InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020