Memorial Medical Center (MMC) was hurting—paper-based processes within its accounts receivable department had slowed wait time to nearly three months. The near-crawl payment cycle not only impacted day-to-day cash flow, but it also was preventing the acute-care facility's efforts to reach operational and performance goals.
At the time, the Ashland, WI, facility, which serves patients located throughout eight counties, was working from a paper-based accounting and data system that thwarted efficiency goals on several fronts: expediting patient care and streamlining and improving internal financial processes.
“With our widely spread patient base, we needed clinical and financial applications that fully leverage the Web to help us deliver top-tier care,” explained CIO Todd Reynolds.
To solve the problem, Memorial Medical Center undertook a Web-based effort two years ago to more efficiently handle data used by the hospital in its day-to-day operations.
Technology improves processes on several fronts
MMC offers inpatient and outpatient services, including medical-surgical, intensive care, obstetrics including Labor, Delivery, Postpartum, and Recovery (LDPR) suites, behavioral health services, and 24-hour emergency care. Prior to the technology enhancement, much of the information about a patient’s stay was written on forms and then entered into the hospital’s computer systems. This information included everything from registration information to medication requirements. To speed the paperwork process, MMC, which has 47 full-time physicians on staff and 420 employees, moved to a Web-based hospital accounting system from QuadraMed Corp. called Affinity Patient Accounting. The software application is a healthcare information system that integrates clinical, financial, and patient information around a patient-centered scalable database.
The technology effort has not only expedited data processes within the enterprise and reduced time spent by physicians on administrative tasks, but it also has helped MMC move forward in its quest to purchase new medical equipment, such as a state-of-the-art MRI machine.
The database upon which MMC built its Affinity application is CACHE from InterSystems Corp. CACHE is a postrelational database that supports multidimensional data. It offers a rapid development environment in which to create objects and object-based applications.
By combining features in the patient accounting application and enhancing its underlying database technology, MMC dramatically changed the way it handled patient data.
“From the time patients register to their discharge, everything is automated,” explained Reynolds, adding that the new technology also saves a lot of time, and costs, that were associated with the old data-entry approach.
MMC also taps the new system to import data that exists elsewhere in electronic format, like data from EDI forms.
“Once the billers and the users got acclimated to the new system, we got improvement,” said Reynolds. The improvement is a much shorter accounts receivable time frame.
In just 18 months, MMC has cut accounts receivable time from 80 days to 55.25 days.
“We changed a few internal processes, but for the most part, the move to [the Affinity/CACHE system] created a lot of cash flow overnight,” said Reynolds.
That means MMC receives money owed it from a variety of sources, like insurance companies, third parties, and patients, in a significantly shorter time than before.
Les Whiteaker, MMC’s CFO, points to the MRI equipment purchase as clear evidence that the improved cash flow allows MMC "to better focus on care delivery." The health facility has also been able to eliminate redundant clinical tests as well as improve the center's overall care delivery system, he added.