One system's experience with scripting

March 1, 2007

Effective maintenance of patient records, registration information, human resources documentation, and reimbursement forms are critical to the IT success of the four-hospital Saint Clare's Health System, in northwestern New Jersey. The hospital system, which houses more than 475 active beds, serves 23,000 inpatients and 250,000 outpatients annually.

Effective maintenance of patient records, registration information, human resources documentation, and reimbursement forms are critical to the IT success of the four-hospital Saint Clare's Health System, in northwestern New Jersey. The hospital system, which houses more than 475 active beds, serves 23,000 inpatients and 250,000 outpatients annually.

With multiple locations and a busy patient schedule, maintaining patient information, regulations and back office tasks is a formidable undertaking for the IT staff. As CIO, I manage our IT infrastructure and deal daily with conflicting pressures - the need to cut costs, speed up payments and collections, and reduce denials from payers – simultaneously. To accomplish these goals, the IT staff has found that scripting is one of the most effective approaches.

With scripting, we tightly maintain our records systems not merely to remain HIPAA-compliant, but also to keep the hospital afloat by maintaining a steady revenue cycle. Scripting has allowed our hospital system to efficiently and accurately automate administrative processes.

Scripting has afforded time savings by automating patient pre-registrations and creating registration records. Patient registration can be messy, involving much patient information, which can be complicated by the number of patients with temporary account numbers. Much of the captured patient data comes from our scheduling system, but because there is no easy link between the scheduling system and our patient access system, we can use scripting to comb through that available data and automatically integrate it into new registration records.

Scripting helps us save time for our financial counselors. In fact, we've reduced manual pre-registrations by 80%. We script patient refund and check-cashing information from our financial system to our patient accounting system to provide collectors with this key information. With accurate and complete registration records, the billing department no longer needs to spend as much time on patient insurance verification.

Forward thinking

Saint Clare's discovers new uses for scripting almost daily, even outside our clinical practices. We've recently rolled out a invoice-scanning system that uses scripting to connect our invoice scanning system to our materials management system, from which approved invoices are forwarded to another system for payment. The script streamlines the handoff process between the scanning system and the materials management system. The Human Resources department also integrates spreadsheets received from individual departments into a master script that allows our human resources software system to be automatically updated with approved salary adjustment information.

Our hospital has recently converted to an entirely electronic medical record system, and we are discovering opportunities for scripting in related to that system. Soon, our patients will be able to register for visits online, eliminating waits at the hospital, and simplifying the process of seeing the doctor. In the meantime, scripting is already making this process more pleasant for our patients.

Rich Temple is CIO of St. Clare's Health System.