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"With ViewDirect, the reports are out there at midnight, so you can plan your day around your work."

 

Going Paperless
Hopkins Health System wants all its financial reports online by July

Allan Jerome, left, of financial systems, and JHMCIS' Ned Fields are saving some forests, thanks to their project that computerizes financial reports.

 If you are one of those people who dreads balancing your checkbook every month, be glad you don't have to reconcile the mammoth financial ledgers of The Johns Hopkins Hospital. Although if you did, you'd have lots of help. Throughout the organization, there are hundreds of people of every ilk, from accountants to nurse managers, who comb through the numbers looking for anything out of whack. Are their units glaringly over budget, or, just as seriously, under budget?

To keep up with the masses of purchases, payments and payroll expenses, the hospital issues stacks of financial reports to its 800 cost centers each month. Until recently, all of them were printed on paper, as many as 41 million pages in 2000. The reports are produced on two massive Xerox machines, each measuring 14-feet long, in the basement of the Rutland Garage. Every night, the copiers begin running at 10 o'clock, spewing 115 pages per minute, and don't stop until 9 a.m. the next day. Then it takes three couriers all day to deliver the finished products.

Plainly, the hospital has been eager to replace this costly and cumbersome system with a computerized version. It had made several attempts over the years, but it wasn't until the late 1990s, when friendlier, Web-capable products became available, that the final roadblocks were removed and Hopkins could begin to customize its own software.

Allan Jerome, senior accountant, financial systems, and Edward (Ned) Fields, advisory operations analyst with Johns Hopkins Medicine Center for Information Services (JHMCIS), teamed up on the project, starting by interviewing their customers. They knew employees were getting much more information than they needed, just from casually observing how many unbundled reports were being chucked into recycle bins.

"I know it's easier to sit at your desk and have the paper delivered," says Jerome, "but do you really need to get a 100-page report when all you want is two or three pages?"

The new application they developed and christened "ViewDirect" is accessed much like EPR (the Electronic Patient Record) and puts all the pertinent numbers, from accounts payable to labor distribution, at an administrator's fingertips.

The savings realized from the new system will be more than just paper costs, predicts Fields. "It's more efficient," he explains. "With ViewDirect, the reports are out there at midnight, so you can plan your day around your work. You don't have to stop what you're doing in the middle of the afternoon when the financial report lands on your desk."

Furthermore, Hopkins has saved hundreds of thousands of dollars by no longer having to store or microfiche its financial reports. The computer keeps everything for 10 years.

So far, several forward-thinking departments have already adapted to ViewDirect, and others began training last month. The hospital hopes to have the majority of its cost centers trained and online by the end of June. Eventually ViewDirect will be in use throughout the entire Johns Hopkins Health System.

The computer-savvy Lisa Katulis, assistant administrator of finance in the Department of Psychiatry, has used the new system since her first day on the job in September 2001. She has given one- on-one training to her staff and all of her cost centers are now online. It has taken time, but she recently shredded the last of the mounds of paper she'd found when she first walked in the door 18 months ago. The big white binders on her bookshelf are finally empty.

Katulis spends the majority of her time picking through numbers with her nurse managers, looking for explanations for the things that jump out at her and flagging errors-like being mistakenly charged for all the replacement phones and all the window washing for the hospital. From her perspective, the new system works wonderfully. "In Psychiatry, we are very fiscally aware," says Katulis, "I can get on it from home. They did a fabulous job."

-Mary Ellen Miller


To schedule ViewDirect training, contact the JHMCIS training center at 410-614-0958.

 

 

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