Artistic Background

Baylor Medical Center at Frisco Streamlines Materials Management with AutoMate

Baylor Medical Center at Frisco Baylor Medical Center at Frisco
Chris Farmer, Director of Materials Management


Baylor Medical Center at Frisco (BMCF), outside of Dallas, Texas, is one of approximately 100 hospital facilities run by United Surgical Partners International (USPI). In this large system, BMCF is known as the most profitable medical facility in the entire USPI system. BMCF utilizes Meditech's health information system to manage the bulk of its activities including ordering and controlling the inventory required to sustain operations.

The Challenge

Upon arriving at BMCF, Chris Farmer was faced with the challenge of improving the management of materials and streamlining the reordering process while working within the confines of the legacy Meditech system. Chris' goal was to revamp and, to some extent, automate the repetitive, manual work practices that feed the ordering and billing systems. As Chris notes, "Traditionally, successful materials management depends on labor-intensive activities carried out in a timely and accurate way by many individuals from many departments. The reason why materials management systems can get out of whack is that these individuals are already very busy performing their core duties, such as nursing or attending to patients. Expecting busy healthcare professionals to be experts and perfectionists at entering data into legacy systems, for example, is a sure-fire way to lose tight control of supplies."

From Chris' point of view, the focus of the materials management department should be to provide user-friendly tools that help healthcare professionals in the context of their other responsibilities, not add an additional burden to an already hectic day. As Chris notes, "Working with Meditech can really complicate matters, especially when you want to add new functionalities that helps users work more efficiently. For example, our staff is very comfortable retrieving and entering data in Microsoft Excel, and communicating with email. To make these users more productive, we knew we had to develop processes that interface these familiar and commonly used applications with Meditech."

The Solution

To this end, Chris has developed an assortment of tools and processes that enable staff to easily communicate which supplies have been consumed, which accounts should be charged, and which supplies need to be reordered. In addition to creating innovative tools and processes, Chris figured out a way to unify and integrate everything with BMCF's Meditech system. Chris says, "Without a common bind, loosely coupled software applications and work practices can add tremendous complexity to the responsibilities of materials management. Developing one-off solutions for each challenge can actually make things worse, not better. We needed to innovate, but we also needed to work within the confines of our Meditech system. For us, the glue that provides cohesion between Meditech, user applications such as Excel and email, and manual activity is AutoMate. AutoMate powers and integrates all of our user-friendly tools for streamlining billing, ordering, and inventory processes."

AutoMate automatically downloads critical data from Meditech on a routine basis and imports the information into a database, which is linked to an array of Excel files that users find familiar and easy to use. The Excel files, customized for each department, contain a list of all chargeable supplies that can be used while caring for patients. As staff consume supplies, they simply note the quantity used in one of the spreadsheet's columns. At the end of the patient visit, this chargeable supplies spreadsheet is forwarded to materials management department. Billing personnel simply scan barcodes associated with each supply item and enter the quantity consumed. This process streamlines billing, making it less time-consuming. But it also makes billing much more accurate - nothing falls through the cracks as all chargeable supplies are charged against appropriate general ledger (GL) accounts.

In the materials management department, the same information is used to reorder supplies so staff is never left shorthanded. And once the supplies are reordered, AutoMate leaps into action again. The individual who places the order automatically receives detailed information about what item was ordered from which vendor, when it will be received, and what GL account will be charged. These emails are sent in real time, a process that vastly improves upon the old way of doing things - the paper shuffle. Consequently, the staff is better informed and the information is fresher, which means there is much less confusion than was experienced with the old way.

Another duty AutoMate performs is assisting inventory control. In the past, hospital staff had to inventory supplies on a periodic basis. Chris says, "This meant you had nurses who are paid to take care of patients in charge, to some extent, of inventory control. This is a poor use of their talents and is certainly not cost effective." Now because of AutoMate, BMCF can contract with a firm that specializes in counting supplies, so inventory counts are much more cost effective, not to mention that nurses have more time to focus on patient care. The contractor simply tallies all items in an Excel spreadsheet, and then AutoMate updates Meditech inventory data using the information in this spreadsheet.

The Benefits

For BMCF, AutoMate streamlines processes, saves time of patient care personnel, and reduces costly inventory errors. According to Chris Farmer, "AutoMate has cut the time it takes for billing and ordering to a mere fraction of what it used to be. We have freed up one person already due to the time savings for ordering alone, and that's just scratching the surface of the savings observed hospital-wide."

With the success of AutoMate in the materials management department, word of the product's power has spread to other areas. Now, AutoMate is powering a litany of critical tasks that helps BMCF be the most profitable facility in the UPSI healthcare system. From updating physician credentialing to assisting new surgeons get the help they need to get up-and-running at the facility, AutoMate plays a key role. Chris adds, "I really don't know where we would be without AutoMate. Whenever we encounter a new process that needs automation or integration, we turn to AutoMate."