How John Muir and Bronson Health brought innovation to business operations with ERP technology

Today's healthcare providers face a multitude of business development pressures, from reducing operating costs and navigating consolidation efforts to successfully implement technology for data-driven decision making. To help meet these demands, some hospitals and health systems have found success with the help of an enterprise resource planning system.

Healthcare leaders are increasingly finding that the back-office technology once used to help growing health systems understand costs as well as operational and labor inefficiencies is no longer doing the trick. On top of that, as technology continues to advance, healthcare leaders are expected to leverage data analytics to create and deliver actionable insights to their supply chain and finance teams to help ensure their organizations' financial viability.

During a July 23 webinar hosted by Becker's Hospital Review and sponsored by Workday, Win Fisher, healthcare strategic industry advisor at Workday, John Hayden, senior vice president and chief human resources officer at Kalamazoo, Mich.-based Bronson Healthcare, and Chris Pass, CFO at John Muir Health in Concord, Calif., discussed how ERP technology can help improve business functions and the most important factors to consider when selecting an ERP system. 

What to look for when selecting ERP technology

There are three important factors that healthcare leaders and providers should focus on when choosing an ERP vendor: innovation, business outcomes and executive alignment, and customer success, according to Mr. Fisher.

Aligning with an ERP vendor that is serious about innovation and offers technological support in areas such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and blockchain will help propel the healthcare providers' innovation efforts. An ERP partner with ample technology experience can provide support for industry-specific innovation, including areas such as employee recruiting and retainment as well as complex supply chain functionality.

While technology and innovation are driving forces behind a successful ERP partnership, it's important to note that technology initiatives should be closely aligned with the healthcare organization's business outcomes, Mr. Fisher said. For example, many hospitals and health systems focus on reducing software purchasing costs, but instead, the focus should be shifted toward evaluating the software based on a business case that accounts for the value the organization receives from the software and the business processes it supports.

Lastly, a healthcare organization needs to ensure the ERP vendor it selects is a good cultural fit. Otherwise, implementation of the new technology will not have the desired effect.

"…The [ERP] technology looks really cool, and it looks brand new and really shiny, but if you don't implement it and configure it the right way, you're not going to get the value out of it that you expect," Mr. Fisher said. "It's really important to have an executive alignment and focus on customer success beyond the actual sale and procurement of the ERP."

John Muir Health and Bronson Healthcare's ERP implementations

John Muir Health implemented a Workday ERP system after installing Epic software in 2014. The health system determined it needed an ERP system at the same level for its back-office functions after it saw how much its employees on the clinical side enjoyed working in the Epic EHR, Mr. Pass said.

While implementing the Epic system helped improve John Muir Health's clinical and quality care functions, the addition of the Workday ERP allowed the health system to streamline its finance and administrative services.

A series of acquisitions in the past decade including various Epic EHR implementations and go-lives also led Bronson Healthcare to install a Workday ERP system, according to Mr. Hayden.

"In human resources, we kind of refer to Workday as our Epic installation and implementation," Mr. Hayden said. "We were on [another ERP] platform for probably 15 years to 18 years, and it seemed when I got here every 12 months to 18 months we were doing an upgrade, which was pretty labor intensive. So, we decided through our strategic planning process that we needed to go in a different direction."

Working with an ERP vendor to support innovation

By implementing Workday's ERP platform, John Muir is able to apply technology such as AI and ML to business processes. Without the platform, these innovations may not have been applied to these areas of operations, according to Mr. Pass.

"We spend a ton of energy in healthcare thinking about AI and ML on making people well or taking care of them differently or healing them faster, which is where we should be focusing," Mr. Pass said. "But [we should also] apply the technology to other areas that can actually improve the cost of healthcare."

To access the full webinar, click here.

More articles on healthcare finance:
Why a Kentucky hospital lost its Medicare funding
Children's Healthcare of Atlanta's operating income jumps in Q2: 4 things to know
Trump considers payroll tax cut — what it could mean for healthcare

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