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So Long, Spreadsheets

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Capital spend software simplifies project management finances for a St. Louis system.

Getting a capital spend management project off the ground at Sisters of Mercy Health System used to mean countless spreadsheets bouncing among the many departments that needed access to the information. But as the St. Louis-based health system grew, senior leaders at the St. Louis system found the routine was no longer working for them.

"It was a lot of from one inbox to the other to the other to the other—and in many cases you will miss steps," says Hector Boirie, chief capital management officer for the 20-hospital system. "We, like everybody else, intended to do the best we could, but fell short."

So Boirie scouted the market for a capital spend management program to help streamline the process and selected one from VFA. The time it takes Mercy to move a requisition has subsequently shrunk from 30 days to seven.

The software allows Mercy to streamline its project workflow and approval process by allowing documents to be stored on a common platform.

"What the technology allows us to do is create a common platform with consistent sets of practices and expectations," Boirie says. "We have developed algorithms in it based on the type of need. We develop categories, and based on those categories the system automatically shepherds that request through the appropriate process that touches all of the appropriate people. It creates the business continuity necessary to make the decisions."

These improvements are especially beneficial to Mercy, which operates 4,029 licensed beds in seven states and recognizes $3.8 billion in annual revenues. The health system also has a total capital budget that fluctuates between $350 million and $500 million a year.

"We needed a technology platform that was able to go down to all of those people that had interests in capital," says Boirie. "So the manager in the unit or secretaries that are budgeting for their leaders—we felt that it was necessary to have a tool that would reach that level and not remain simply as a financial tool relegated to that office."

The real advantage of the software isn't just the simplification of project management finances, Boirie says, but the time efficiencies it creates, which is why he doesn't track ROI in terms of dollars saved with the software—it just wouldn't paint the full picture.

"The beauty and where we get the savings, the value from capital, is from the people and process aspect—not from the technology," he says. "Our intent behind all of this is to minimize variation and to leverage Mercy's size. We have also built programs where we bring accountability to single sources where previously each facility would do things differently."

Boirie says health systems and hospitals of all sizes can benefit from capital spend management software, but it is not an overarching solution to a disorganized spend management process.

"Technology serves as a tremendous advantage when applied properly toward improvements, but it is one aspect of enhancement and value that you are trying to deliver in healthcare today," he says.

Marianne Aiello

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