Doing More with Less and Getting Results

Ben Shah, MBA, director of financial planning at Legacy Health, recently talked with HIMSSwire about some of the challenges the five-hospital, Portland, Ore.-based system is facing. Shah specifically addressed the conundrum that many financial planning departments are wrestling with as healthcare enterprises try to get a handle on doing more with less. That is, the fact that financial departments, themselves, have to jump on – and successfully ride -- the same bandwagon.

HIMSSwire: Can you describe the challenges that the Legacy Health financial planning department was facing?

Ben Shah: Like many other healthcare organizations across the country, our healthcare system was facing a number of added financial pressures. As a result, financial planning has become such an important element of our health system’s overall success. Not surprisingly, staff in the financial planning department were being asked to perform more and more analyses and produce more and more reports. Of course, we had to face this increasing workload without hiring additional staff members. So, we were under increased pressure to help various departments across the Legacy enterprise find a way to do more with less – and, at the same time, we had to come up with a say to do more with less ourselves.

HIMSSwire: What prompted you to consider a cost accounting solution?

Ben Shah:  Frankly, we knew we needed something. We needed to find a way to work more efficiently and to get the financial results that Legacy Health requires in these challenging times. We weren’t exactly sure of what we needed, though. So, we issued a request for proposals to see if we could identify if there were any systems out there that could help us meet our goals.

HIMSSwire: What made you decide to implement the StrataJazz solution?

Ben Shah: After analyzing a variety of proposals, we realized that we needed a single platform solution that could be used for all financial planning and decision support. We recognized that the StrataJazz Decision Support solution offered this platform as well as all the analytics and data integration capabilities that would enable us to discover the true cost of healthcare delivery across all of the providers and departments in our large enterprise. Because we already had a relationship with Strata Decision Technology, we were confident that we could move forward knowing that the vendor would fully support our efforts.

HIMSSwire: How is Legacy Health leveraging the new cost accounting system to improve financial planning?

Ben Shah: The StrataJazz solution makes it possible for us to quickly and easily identify areas that are not performing well. With the solution in place, we can drill down and pinpoint exactly what the issue is. The dashboard is especially helpful, as it provides executive leaders with a one stop shopping source to look at their financial performance and then drill down and look at factors such as payroll and productivity to pinpoint any issues.  It just makes it so easy for the executives as they can get all the information they need from one dashboard and quickly make a diagnosis into what is going on. In addition, the StrataJazz solution is integrated into our financial systems so it can be accessed and updated on demand, with limited assistance from the financial planning department.

HIMSSwire: Can you explain how this easy access to data is helping your overall cost reduction efforts at Legacy Health?

Ben Shah: We have been able to really leverage intelligence across our entire enterprise. For example, we have been able to find variances and differences between hospitals for similar services. When finding these discrepancies, departmental leaders can then talk with their peers at other hospitals in our system.  By doing so, they can share best practices. For example, the tool is helping us take a look at supply spending and help us push standardization not just within each hospital but across our entire enterprise.  In turn, that will help us build up the volume on standardized items and help us have the ability to get better pricing form vendors

HIMSSwire: What results have you realized from the implementation of the cost accounting solution so far?

Ben Shah: While it is still too early to quantify results in terms of reduced spending or improved financial outcomes due to the analyses we are conducting across Legacy Health with StrataJazz, we are experiencing incredible results in the financial planning department. For example, we used to produce cost accounting reports quarterly – and now produce them monthly. In addition, we have reduced the number of FTEs working on financial decision support projects from 8 to 5.  Now, these employees are involved with other strategic initiatives that are helping us move our organization forward.