How Automating Expenses Can Continue to Fuel Innovation within Academic Medical Centers

If you want to stay competitive and train the future leaders of healthcare, you need to lead the industry in innovation. At least that’s what university medical hospitals are aiming for with top medical students from around the world and some of the best healthcare physicians to be their teachers.

And you can bet the race is always on to find the next best treatment or care – all with the end goal in mind to improve lives.

Nevertheless, just like any other organization or business, academic medical centers have budgets. Whether it’s spent on research and development (R&D) to find cures or buying the latest high-tech medical equipment, such as computer-assisted surgical systems, you can probably guess that the latest innovative treatments and procedures can be quite expensive. That’s why budgets have to be carefully decided and records of money spent properly allocated. While finance departments in healthcare facilities across the nation are working hard to do just this, they also have to navigate an increasingly complex regulatory environment. So how do you achieve cost-savings in an industry that demands continuous investment for innovation? It starts with properly tracking spend.

For years, the funds to transform healthcare organizations back offices have been set aside, only to later be redistributed to pay for innovative medical activities forcing finance departments to create and use manual solutions. But that doesn’t cut it. Although we see the pride you take in your school, and the exceptional healthcare work you do, it’s time to take pride in your spend management system and how you handle expenses.

Whether your organization is tracking expenses by hand or using a spreadsheet to manage expenses, you are probably thinking that it’s good enough, and that updating these back-office systems can wait. But innovation can’t wait. Not when it comes to handling your money. As with most innovation activities, money is the key to making things happen. This is perhaps truer in the healthcare space than most other sectors.

In this article you’ll discover why automating your expense process is critical to all things healthcare, from providing leading patient-care solutions, to adopting innovative technology, and even towards your organization’s business model.

Why Automation Is Key for Academic Medical Centers

An article from Harvard Business Review claims that innovations in the delivery of healthcare can result in more convenient, more effective, and less expensive treatments for today’s time-constricted and increasingly empowered healthcare consumers. If automation can fix your back-office problems and make processing expenses more convenient, more effective, and less expensive, then it could be a start in how your healthcare organization innovates to provide more patient-driven care and student-centric learning. Here’s why:

  • Automation frees up time spent on administrative tasks for more time devoted to treating patients. Doctors are currently spending less than a third (27 percent) of their time treating patients; the majority of their time is spent on various administrative tasks such as charting medical history or reporting traveling expenses. Automating common administrative duties eases the burden borne by clinical administrative staff and physicians alike, reducing burnout and allowing the focus to shift from paperwork to patients.
  • Automation simplifies reporting expenses and receiving reimbursements for rotational medical students. For third-year medical students, rotational medical programs can cause students to travel around the nation incurring expenses, such as living and mileage, on behalf of the academic medical organization. Submitting these expenses for reimbursement is often a lengthy and manual process requiring saving receipts, printing out invoices, and waiting weeks for expenses to be refunded back into their bank accounts. This process, when repeated every six weeks for hundreds of medical students, can become quite a nuisance for both the student and the organization to keep up with. By automating your expenses, your organization can eliminate the hassle of paperwork and direct students to utilize a more modern platform of tracking expenses instantly online. Reimbursement can then be resolved in a matter of days, rather than weeks.

If your organization is still managing it’s disparate spend channels manually, then you are being held back. In order to innovate, change simply can’t wait for you to itemize your receipts or manually piece together expense information. And shifting pricing models definitely can’t wait for you to reconcile last month’s expenses. You see, delivering innovative, patient-centric care and student-centric learning can’t wait for you to keep up. And as was previously stated, money is the key to making things happen. So why is your organization waiting around to slowly enter and approve expenses?

Alleviating the Pains of Manual Expenses with Technology

You already know that using technology to develop new products and treatments improves patient care and offers better treatment and care that is less costly, disruptive, and painful. But did you know that adopting new technology to handle your expenses can also reduce costs, disruptions, and make the entire expense process be less painful? As continuing medical education (CME) is important for every healthcare organization, most organizations regularly need to manage and control its impacts on travel and expense (T&E) budgets. Unfortunately, this is increasingly difficult as the way businesses buy continues to change, the number of vendors organizations work with is growing, and the role physicians and medical students play in those purchases is evolving. In fact, your physicians and other staff members are spending more money across more spend categories using more payment methods than ever before. Because of this, healthcare executives must do what they can to alleviate the administrative burden placed on their finance teams. How? By integrating innovative automation technology designed to free up human capital with time-saving T&E spend tracking. With the right strategy, healthcare leaders can be sure every dollar possible is used to further focus on strategic initiatives.

Ensuring your expenses are accurately captured and tracked with automation can also help your organization when it comes to managing grant spending. Forbes reports that researchers often try to use existing organizational accounting software to track grant deployments, but soon find it is better to use an accounting system specifically designed for grant management – one that interfaces with the organization’s accounting program. As you can already see, a manual expense process won’t cut tracking grant spend.

Connecting Healthcare Organizations Around the World With Expense Data Integration

Innovative business models, particularly those that integrate healthcare activities, can increase efficiency, improve care, and save time. But your manual expense process is preventing that from happening, forgetting expense information in one location is already difficult enough. The good news is that automating your expense process can quickly solve these problems. With receipt capture technology and artificial intelligence ready to help 24/7, traveling physicians and medical students can report T&E items to your central database in one click. You can even automatically track mileage and record personal car mileage distances in the same location. No more cross-referencing databases or mis-entering expenses. An automated expense management system can do that for you, while ensuring physicians and medical students spend within your organization’s policy and alerting your financial department with red flags if anything is amiss.

Benefits of Automating Your Expense Process With SAP Concur

Automation is the missing link for what your university healthcare organization needs to continue to innovate. On top of being able to stay ahead of innovative practices, you’ll also end up saving your finance department a whole lot of time, which translates to saving more money. With SAP Concur as your expense automation provider, your organization can enjoy:

  • Paper-less expense tracking
  • The ability to track CME and grant spending with ease
  • Increased visibility and control over T&E
  • Increased user adoption and compliance with user-friendly tools
  • Reduced risk of errors and fraudulent spend

But don’t just take it from us. Here’s how SAP Concur helps simplify T&E for Wake Forest Baptist Health, an academic medical center in North Carolina:

“At Wake Forest Baptist Health we are focused on combining the delivery of superb patient-centered care with a proven record of outstanding achievement and pioneering efforts in education and research. SAP Concur does a great job automating our T&E processes at a scalable level while accommodating the regulatory and cultural complexities within a preeminent academic medical center setting.” – Joe Dolan, associate vice president and controller at Wake Forest Baptist Health

Learn more about using SAP Concur solutions for your university healthcare organization today by visiting us online, so your organization can have pride in your school, work, and now your expense system.

Kyla Kent is an associate content marketing manager for the Enterprise Americas team at SAP Concur.

This story originally appeared on the SAP Concur newsroom.