Guest Column | July 5, 2018

Is Your Contract Management Process Improving Patient Care And Reducing Risk?

By Colin Earl, Agiloft

risk-based monitoring technology

Modern contract management software gives healthcare organizations access to real-time analytics, enhanced collaboration, and performance tracking capabilities. If you’re not leveraging these systems, you’re missing out on a real opportunity to distance yourself from the competition.

Despite having hundreds, sometimes thousands of supplier and partner relationships, lots of healthcare organizations use general-purpose software like Excel and ad-hoc processes based on email to manage contract compliance and supplier accountability. The sheer number of agreements makes such tools impractical. The result is a chaotic process where performance often goes unchecked, payments are made to vendors with lapsed agreements, and suppliers unintentionally operate outside of guidelines.

An increasingly holistic approach to healthcare is accelerating the movement towards even more vendor relationships. A 2018 PwC industry report estimates that providers could save $1.2 million a year per 10,000 patients by incorporating an extended care team of nutritionists, social workers, and community. As patient experiences increasingly involve these partners and suppliers, relying on manual processes to manage them becomes operationally risky.

As the landscape shifts, it’s helpful to look at organizations that are pioneering best practices that address these challenges. Both Fraser Health and OB Hospitalist Group (OBHG) offer such examples. By adopting automated contract management systems, both organizations have greatly improved their vendor and partner management processes, increasing engagement, shrinking information silos, providing data analytics, and enabling communication. As a result, these organizations have measurably reduced operational risk and increased positive patient outcomes.

Serving more than 1.8 million residents and employing 25,000 workers, Fraser Health is the largest health authority in British Columbia. Two years ago, it revamped its contract management processes to keep step with its expanding list of partners. After an exhaustive review of current practices, Fraser Health decided on an integrative approach to partner management that reflected its core values of transparency and teamwork. With contract management as the center point, Fraser Health put a portal in place where suppliers and partners would be kept in sync with the business through automated workflows and real-time access to data and notifications. The immediate results were healthier lines of communication, systematic reporting, and real-time performance tracking. Over time, Fraser expects to reduce spending, improve the patient experience, and ensure proactive risk management.

“Over the last two to three decades, we’ve seen more and more outsourcing in healthcare services,” said Fraser Health Management Consultant Hardeep Chaggar. “But what we haven’t seen is the corresponding investment in technology and process design. This is necessary to really enable us to ensure that we are harvesting value from these contracts but also to be sure that we’ve identified and are managing our risks. We recognized that we need technology as the foundation.”

Looking to empower employees and their suppliers through a unified platform, Chagger and his team implemented a system that could streamline current operations and scale with their vision. Data that employees had previously needed to track down now took shape with automatic alerts, scheduled reminders to vendors, and self-populating reports. This resulted in analytics and dashboards that accurately reflect the state of the business and its supply chain. These data points act as leading indicators, allowing for quicker recognition of a misalignment between vendor expectations and performance. With an enhanced digital structure, templates, automated workflows, and a searchable repository, the system reduced the administrative burden on employees and partners giving both sides access to real-time resources.

Fraser Health’s vendors have been extremely responsive to the new system as it allows them to see how they stack up against the organization’s standards. In the future, they will be able to access training to better their position and stay informed on changing performance expectations. The portal also allows users to document feedback and detail actions to address any performance gaps. This allows teams to spend less time tracking down results through email and phone calls and more time focusing on patient care. Now, team members on both sides are making better, more strategic decisions and increasing their shared awareness of how best to serve patients.

Like Fraser Health, OBHG turned to automation to address the complex processes required to oversee 120 programs and 560 physicians in 28 states. It implemented a customized and streamlined solution that could address insurance company payment monitoring, asset tracking of physician equipment, and a full contract management solution. With increased visibility and operational efficiency provided by automation, OBHG reduced unnecessary spending and more accurately inform critical business decisions.

“We look at things differently now, more strategically,” said OBHG Paralegal Regina Flint. “For example, the vendor contract system requires that we enter important information like cost and renewal information. With that, we can make more informed decisions. It keeps business running smoothly.”

As organizations like Fraser Health and OBHG show, using technology to streamline operations is good for business, but more importantly, it also has a powerful effect on patient care outcomes.

About The Author

Agiloft CEO and founder, Colin Earl, is a software industry veteran with more than 25 years of experience as a developer, product manager, and CIO. Colin worked at IBM, General Electric, and three start-ups before founding Agiloft in 1991. His vision was to accelerate the building and deployment of enterprise business applications by removing the need for manual coding. Under his leadership, Agiloft has achieved this goal, creating a market segment for agile business software. Colin's focus is on growing a world-class team and aligning the interests of staff, partners, and customers. He has an engineering degree from Imperial College and moved to Silicon Valley in 1986.