Cost-conscious healthcare leaders seeking to increase efficiency in corporate services are generating success through automation technology, but most hospitals and health systems have yet to optimize their use of technology to full effect. That takeaway comes from a recent Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA) survey in which 112 healthcare leaders shared their views and projections about corporate services and health IT. The survey was fielded earlier this year, and participants included CFOs and other financial and revenue cycle executives. Through its Center for Health Insights, Guidehouse analyzed the research conducted by HFMA, and the following sections discuss key takeaways.
Automation technologies gaining steam
The use of automation technology among hospitals and health systems is on the upswing, with 82% of respondents already on their automation journey. The majority of those are still in the early stages, either testing the technology or already deployed and actively monitoring results. But 19% report that their automation investments have driven positive results, and they are expanding their capabilities.
The increased use of automation as a cost-reduction strategy includes organizations that lack the resources needed to deploy the technology themselves, said Bill Jones, a Guidehouse partner and managed services leader.
“For these providers, leveraging vendor partnerships and outsourced services is a strategic investment to successfully achieve economies of scale and realize the benefits of automation,” he said.
Optimization opportunities abound
Only 8% of hospitals and health systems are using a fully optimized enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, the survey found. About 32% of health system leaders said they have deployed a system, but it is not optimized yet — but just 16% of hospitals are at that point.
Although the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT has made regulatory moves that improve interoperability — allowing providers to easily and securely exchange data and automate technologies — many providers have yet to take full advantage of the opportunity, according to Guidehouse leaders. One example: 30% of providers report they may be at least two years away from deploying an ERP system, and 15% say they have no plans to do so.
Providers can drive efficiency gains, especially in corporate services, by optimizing technology, said Subra Sripada, a Guidehouse partner and Health IT Solutions co-leader.
“Underperforming or underleveraged ERP assets, for instance, significantly slow down operations, productivity and employee engagement,” said Sripada, a former health system chief information officer. “In many cases, providers are not taking full advantage of the benefits their technology investments offer to solve their greatest business challenges — and it’s working against them in terms of efficiency and security.”
Automation technology yielding returns for nearly 20% of hospitals