Achieve near-term productivity gains

Mar 01, 2009

Your competitive edge can come from digitizing and automating labor-intensive processes to gain efficiencies

For healthcare in general, and payers in particular, leveraging technology to save money requires a disciplined focus on technologies that digitize and improve business processes, especially those processes that are the most costly and labor-intense.

Digitizing and automating several people-driven processes could not only save operational costs but give health plans the competitive edge they need to grow market share and revenue. They include:

Most commonly, redundancies in payer organizations happen between common business applications that may serve slightly different purposes but share common features.

HUMAN ASSETS

Your employees are your most valuable asset, and ensuring that they're working at their peak productivity can help drive cost savings. By taking advantage of innovative technology tools to digitize and commoditize the processes that are driven by people, executives can lower costs and even gain market share by amplifying the impact of people and teams rather than replacing them.

Back-end systems must be better connected with familiar, front-end software to increase ease of use. Simply making sure all users can easily access software and systems-and that they are using best practices-can boost productivity.

Implementing ways to automate tedious, manual tasks, such as authoring and sharing documents, can also boost productivity. Automation will decrease the time it takes to process claims, review records and make payments, which results in cost savings and increased customer satisfaction.

Operational expenses are a fact of life, but payers that take a careful look at operational processes that are particularly labor intense will be in a better position competitively.

Take stock of your existing personnel and staff, and assess whether increasing their internal skills with training, further education and e-learning might be a better use of funds and deliver greater ROI.

In the short term, there are a number of "green" business initiatives that are not only good for the environment, but also can deliver almost instant cost savings. Slashing travel and expense budgets can be a start, and an investment in a teleconferencing and/or Web conferencing solution can help drive costs down further.

A virtualization solution, for hardware or servers, can lower costs associated with equipment, electricity and space. With a low total cost of ownership, a virtualization solution can help IT departments maximize their return on investment and cost savings across the enterprise.

Compliance is one of the single biggest challenges facing payers today, and with even more stringent rules in the pipeline, you need to address any bottlenecks or outdated workflow processes that may hinder regulatory compliance.

Investing in enterprise search, database, security and reporting tools can dramatically reduce the complexity of analyzing and reporting company information for various financial and compliance purposes.

It's a lot to take in. But by leveraging the technology you might already have, it's possible to drive increased cost savings.

MHE Editorial Advisor Dennis Schmuland, MD, is Microsoft's national director, U.S. Health Plan Industry Solutions.

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