Fortunately, the health care industry is responding to these pressures with significant new technology solutions and services. Using scripting technology, with minimal initial investment, hospitals can start to relieve the pressure for their staff, their systems and their bottom line. We'll look at how using scripting technology to automate seven manual tasks plays a role in helping hospitals streamline processes and work smarter. You can do the same within your organization using scripting technology.
Manual task #1: Report generation
Daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, even annually: how many regular reports do the departments in your facility generate to manage business operations or financial status? At South County Hospital in Rhode Island, CIO Gary Croteau has transferred the work of generating more than 50 daily reports from the department managers by automating the process. Using scripting technology, all standard reports are automatically created and posted to an intranet site at .pdfs. Now managers have access to the current and past reports at their convenience. No IT resource is required to run or manage daily report generation, allowing staff to focus their energy on areas of greater need.
Manual task #2: Processing purchase orders
Ten hours each day. That's how much time Computer Systems Specialist Michael Maggio at Woman's Hospital in Baton Rouge, La., is saving by automating the purchase order process. The script searches the Hospital Information System (HIS) once or twice a day for purchase orders that have been entered by various departments. It then checks the departments' inventories for items that have fallen below minimum reorder points.
Next, the script automatically creates a new purchase order or adds those items to an existing one. It then ensures that the purchase order meets minimum order and other requirements, and sends it to vendors electronically or via fax. Buyers receive e-mail notification of any issues and can then add items to the order or hold it until that minimum is met. In addition to saving resources, Woman's Hospital has eliminated unnecessary minimum order fees-penalties that had been costing more than $300 a month.
Manual task #3: Remittance posting
University Health System in South Texas will post almost 2.5 million payments to patient accounts this year. In one week, the business staff downloads 25-30 files with more than 40,000 payments and adjustments to post. And it's all done automatically. By eliminating a third-party vendor and using scripting technology, University Health's Brian Stevenson, Systems Administrator for Business Information Services, is running these processes in a more timely and consistent basis. More importantly, the hospital is getting paid faster. This not only ensures the accuracy of information, but it also frees personnel to have more time to concentrate on more important issues (such as actual visits).
Manual task #4: Employee updates
One of the most common data entry tasks that is required in any business is updating employee files for annual raises. With anywhere from 1,000 to 5,000 employees in any one region, Dallas, TX-based Christus Health needed four to five people, and more than a week of data entry to accomplish this update. Now using a script, the task is done accurately and in much less time. Often, a single computer working 24 hours can automatically input the raises for an entire region's employees (about 5,000 records), ensuring that they are rewarded in a timely manner. In addition, Christus automatically pulls personnel data from its HIS into the timekeeping application on a daily and weekly basis.
Other hospitals have used scripting to track and apply individual employee deductions. The script connects to a third-party Web site to transfer the file, and then uploads it to the HIS for payroll, saving roughly eight hours per week.
Manual task #5: Data conversions and system migrations
Greenwich Hospital in CT applied scripting technology to automatically convert registration information to centralized scheduling. More than 10,000 appointments already in the HIS needed to be converted into the proper time slots in a new scheduling module. The script automatically and accurately pulled appointments from a spreadsheet, and uploaded them to the new scheduling application. This kind of conversion would normally take 700 man-hours or about $10,000. If it had been done on an overtime basis, it would have cost the hospital $16,000. Greenwich developed the script in four hours and had it running by the end of the week.
Manual task #6: Registration and scheduling
A major New Jersey hospital has realized time savings by automating patient pre-registrations and creating registration records through scripting. Patient registration involves a great deal of patient information, which can be complicated by patients with temporary account numbers. Much of the captured patient data comes from the hospital's scheduling system, but because there is no easy link between the scheduling and patient access system, the staff uses scripting to comb through that available data and automatically integrate it into new registration records. Automating pre-registration has reduced manual pre-registrations by 80 percent, as well as the time spent verifying information before billing.
Manual task #7: Streamline billing
At the Hayes Medical Center in Hayes, KS, scripting technology has saved time and money. Incorrect charges on the wrong accounts would frustrate patients and slow revenue for the hospital. Using scripting technology, Hayes Medical Center has eliminated the time-consuming task of reviewing each account, which may involve moving charges from one account to another when errors are found. In addition to saving staff time and improving accuracy, clinical staff members now don't have to verify account numbers to accurately document services.
The bottom line
If you had to allocate money to manually create efficiencies, you probably wouldn't do it. It just takes too much time, too much money and too much manpower to accomplish it. Developing scripts doesn't take much time and it creates operational efficiencies throughout the entire enterprise. One significant benefit is a more productive and happy workforce, which translates to a higher quality of care in all facets of the organization.
The bottom line? Look around you. Anywhere you see someone typing data into an application, there's a potential for using scripting to automate that task. Automating these projects not only allows you to redirect staff to more productive work, it also ensures the accuracy of your data-which can save a bundle in billing.