Current regulatory, financial and patient pressures are pushing healthcare organizations to operate more quickly and efficiently. At the same time, health systems are facing shifting payment models, narrowing profit margins and limited budgets – all of which emphasize the need for healthcare CFOs to have more and better visibility into their spend data. However, surveys show one in four health care systems don’t have a data governance model in place.
In travel and expense management specifically, having a standardized data management practice is especially important. Between corporate, ghost, virtual, corporate and even personal cards for corporate purchases, many healthcare employees today spend corporate dollars across more spend categories, using more payment methods than ever before. Tracking this becomes virtually impossible for most healthcare organizations. In fact, employee-initiated spend has become the largest unmanaged spend category in almost every company’s financial program.
Compounding this issue is the fact that many healthcare employees still manually input and process travel, expense and invoice data. This leads to untimely and inaccurate insights. Not only does manual data entry hinder visibility into an organization’s overall spend, it is also time-consuming. Cardinal Health, which processes about 20,000 expense reports a month, took more than twice as long to submit, approve and track expenses before implementing a dedicated expense reporting solution. As profit margins narrow and budgets shrink, CFOs can’t afford to waste time.
Fortunately, there are a few ways healthcare CFOs can overcome these issues and drive greater value with their spend data:
- Collaborate across departments. Poor communication between departments often encourages data siloes. As a result, CFOs are often unable to access, or are simply unaware of, additional insights that can support smarter travel, expense and invoice management. Healthcare CFOs should encourage collaboration among stakeholders across HR, IT and travel units to ensure expense, invoice and travel decisions are being made comprehensively. Not only does cross-team collaboration ensure richer insights, it can also open doors to additional efficiencies across the organization. If efficiencies are realized in the back office, healthcare providers can focus on what is most important – providing great care to their patients.
- Centralize all data to inform insights. Connecting and aggregating all spend data ensures healthcare CFOs can get a more comprehensive picture and draw accurate, representative insights. CFOs should look for spend management solutions that leverage APIs so enterprise tools can integrate and share data seamlessly. In addition to integrating with one another, these tools should connect with an open ecosystem of third-party applications to extend the value of that data and draw greater insights.
- Set data entry parameters. To improve oversight into employee-initiated spend, CFOs should set parameters around data input, such as defining the required receipt type and expense itemizations. Some organizations find success by establishing a corporate card program, which makes it possible to automatically import transactions into an expense management system.
- Automate processes. Automating standard business processes such as travel, expense and invoice management can save employees time while helping businesses eliminate manual error and potential fraud. Advanced technologies such as machine learning can take automation one step further by analyzing mobile receipts to automatically populate data fields on an expense report. It can also detect duplicates as soon as they enter the system and notify finance managers of repeat data.
- Consider mobile tools. Mobile tools can help employees manage travel expenses and access information on the go, which is useful for a workforce that is primarily mobile and not sitting at desks. CFOs can eliminate lost receipts and keep expenses accurate by ensuring employees can capture receipts by simply taking a picture. This also encourages employees to input data in a timely manner, allowing for a more current view of spend.
By leveraging these best practices, healthcare CFOs can strengthen their existing spend management models, so they can uncover insights and improve efficiencies to ultimately save their organizations money.
Chris Toomey is a VP of targeted industries and healthcare sales at SAP Concur. He has been with SAP Concur for more than 16 years focusing on SAP Concur healthcare customers and prospects. He lives in the Greater Boston area and received a bachelor’s degree in economics and management from Hartwick College and a MBA from George Mason University.