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  • January 12, 2021

The value of a data-first approach to finance in healthcare

Guest Author
This is a syndicated post, view the original post here

By Matthew Savard, Director of Financial Analytics, Adventist Health

At Adventist Health, the needs of our patients trump everything else. That’s why I chose health care finance: it lets me use my skill set to benefit the greater good.

We’re a faith-based, not-for-profit health care organization serving communities in the western part of the United States. As part of our mission, we provide care to underserved communities, many of which have no other local health care providers. To support this business model, we need to be highly efficient and achieve economies of scale—especially these days, when COVID-19 has stretched resources thinner than ever. We rely heavily on our transactional systems, including Oracle Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), in conjunction with Oracle Enterprise Performance Management (EPM), to support our new quarterly forecasting cycles. We are making updates to our forecasting every month to make sure we are as prepared as possible to respond to the rapid changes we have experienced in recent months.  

Growth through acquisitions and joint ventures is one way we stay viable. We’ve experienced quite a bit of growth in the last several years, including several hospital acquisitions. To achieve our mission of making healthcare affordable and accessible, it’s critical that we manage operations and allocate resources effectively as we work to integrate these new acquisitions into our family rapidly and efficiently.

From a data challenge to a business transformation

Acquisitions always come with data challenges. Even though our hospitals used the Adventist Health name, each one historically operated independently with its own dedicated finance and HR teams, as well as legacy systems. The high level of customization at each location made it extraordinarily time consuming for our small staff at the corporate level to complete consolidated reporting. Even after our team jumped through numerous hoops to pull the data together, it wasn’t consistent or reliable.

One small example of the data difficulties we faced was in reporting outpatient visits. Some of our hospitals included emergency room visits in their outpatient count, while others didn't. You can imagine how that impacted reporting confidence and how it created ambiguity for our leaders.

We needed a large-scale change—adopting new technology and transitioning to a whole new way of doing business. We needed a “data first” strategy.

A data-first approach to healthcare administration

A data-first strategy is different from a master data management (MDM) strategy. MDM requires a burdensome, up-front orchestration of people, processes and policies to align with a data governance charter. By contrast, enterprise data management (EDM) takes a bottoms-up approach, starting with small teams making changes incrementally and evolving from there to larger transformations.

This bottoms-up approach helped to ensure consistency across our finance applications, reporting, analytics, and other systems. We could rely on the data and feel confident that our numbers were correct, rather than spending days every month reconciling spreadsheets with no confidence in the results.

With the guidance of our engagement and implementation partners, we started our transformation with GL and HCM in Oracle ERP, and with planning in Oracle EPM. Following that, we moved onto profitability and cost management and narrative reporting. We also implemented  Oracle Analytics and Oracle Enterprise Data Management (EDM). The use of a single, connected Oracle Cloud is helping us shift toward "One Adventist Health," with centralized support functions and a holistic planning and decision-making model. The efficiencies we’ve gained in this data-first strategy help us devote more time and resources to our patients—which is why we all do what we do.

Getting to this part of our journey wasn’t easy, and we learned quite a bit along the way—but we’re incredibly pleased with the results so far. To share our story, I participated in a webcast with David Handy, vice president of EDM at Oracle. We took a closer look at our journey, and how our data-first approach transformed our ability to take on new acquisitions and continue with our growth strategy.

Watch the webcast, “Adopting A Data-First Strategy To Drive Your Next Generation Applications.”

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