CHRISTUS Health, ranked among the top ten Catholic health systems in the U.S., encompasses almost 350 services and facilities. CHRISTUS Health uses e.ssential Contract Guardian, a contract management solution from LANSA business partner Rippe & Kingston. Built with LANSA, the browser-based solution can be deployed across multiple platforms in-house or on a SaaS basis. CHRISTUS Health has implemented the solution in a Windows environment at its Houston data center.
Diana M. Holland, program manager, Strategy and Innovation, Business/Financial Strategies with CHRISTUS Health’s Information Management team, said "With Contract Guardian, the entire contract management process is more transparent, which allows us to build our operations on a process, rather than being dependent on individual people. Deployment is simple and only requires placing an icon on the desktops of the users. Nothing else needs to be installed or maintained."
Our entire contract management process is more transparent
- The Challenge
- The Solution
- From an IT point of View
- The Benefits
- Company and System Information
CHRISTUS Health is a Catholic, faith-based, not-for-profit health system composed of almost 350 services and facilities, including 50 hospitals and long-term care facilities, 175 clinics and outpatient centers and dozens of other health ministries. CHRISTUS services can be found in over 60 cities in Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Georgia, Utah and Mexico.
In 2004, CHRISTUS Health launched an initiative, called the Unity Project, to standardize clinical, business and financial processes across its facilities. As a first and major step, CHRISTUS Health hospitals moved, or are moving to, a single Healthcare Information System (HIS), namely, MEDITECH.
Holland, explains, "Converting to a corporate wide HIS marked the beginning of our ability to establish standardized clinical and financial policies and procedures throughout all our facilities. Concurrently, we are looking at standardizing other applications. Moving to a corporate wide contract management system is a priority, because it allows regions and facilities to collaborate and share information. It provides for a proactive approach to contract management and informed business decisions."
With that in mind, James Lofton, process analyst, Contracts / Insurance Administrative Services for CHRISTUS Health’s Northern Louisiana region, set out in 2007 to identify a contract management solution.
Lofton explains, "Each hospital generally has around 1,200 to 1,600 contracts, of which typically 800 to 1,000 are active and the others still recent enough to be archived. The contracts are with physicians, suppliers and also include real estate dealings, insurance policies and any other agreements that need record keeping."
"I was looking for a more flexible solution to manage the growing volume and variety of contracts. Another important requirement was that the solution needed to offer journaling of all activities around a contract. Rippe and Kingston's Contract Guardian solution stood out for its flexibility and ease-of-use. Most importantly, their solution was one of the few, if not the only, that offered journaling."
With training and implementation assistance from Rippe, Lofton implemented Contract Guardian successfully in the Northern Louisiana hospitals. During that initial pilot period, the solution was deployed in a SaaS environment hosted by Rippe. After a successful trial, the solution was rolled out to additional regions and deployed in-house on a Windows server at CHRISTUS Health's Houston data center.
Regions and facilities can collaborate and share information
At CHRISTUS Health, a contract will for example, begin with a corporate supply chain manager negotiating the best possible agreement. All documents, images, email messages and meeting notes that are related to the agreement can be journaled in Contract Guardian and attached to the agreement.
Once the agreement is in place, the contract is assigned to the local contract managers at the hospitals in the regions it applies to. Local contract managers then assign the agreement to the relevant staff in their hospital. For example, if the agreement is with a supplier of syringes, all individuals who might purchase syringes are made aware of the contract.
Assigning a contract results in the system sending a round of e-mail messages and posting these to the journal. It is the responsibility of the assigned end-users to utilize the agreement, or to respond and report that they have been improperly assigned.
"Contract Guardian enables us to instantly locate contracts through several search interfaces. It also includes a feature called My Contracts that allows you to bookmark contracts that require your focus. So, you don’t even have to search. Plus it gives you the ability to create a to-do list using a calendar feature. The combination of the automatic bookmark feature within the contract and the fact it is a searchable pdf delivers dramatic time savings," Lofton explains.
"Another feature that comes in particularly handy is that managers can reassign contracts temporarily to someone else. That way, nothing falls through the cracks when someone is on holiday or sick leave."
The solution also allows for an internal news area, which Lofton uses to post information about new features and out-of-office notifications.
Contract Guardian enables us to instantly locate contracts
From an IT point of View
e.ssential™ Contract Guardian is written in LANSA and delivered to the user's desktop via a browser-based portal. The solution supports multiple platforms (Windows, System i and Linux) and multiple databases running on those platforms.
Thom Davidson, senior partner at Rippe & Kingston, explains that at the design stage of Contract Guardian, in addition to business requirements, there were numerous technical requirements that had to be met. Such as: accessible from any location, fully secured, automated auditing capabilities, intuitive and consistent user interface, easy to deploy, platform- and database-independent and the ability to integrate with Microsoft Office and other applications.
"Rapid development and the ability to rapidly respond to any request with the confidence we could deliver, was also important," says Davidson. "Those requirements made our decision relatively easy on what would do the job: Portal Technology combined with LANSA."
"The LANSA Web Application Modules (WAMs) are perfect for generating portlets. Platform and database independence are part and parcel of LANSA and LANSA's wizards assured us of development speed and consistency. Development and deployment are quick and easy. And of course the history of LANSA proves that they provide the technological insurance that every software vendor desires."
Platform and database independence are part and parcel of LANSA
"Contract Guardian's advanced search and bookmark facilities, together with journaling and other sophisticated features, help us minimize the risk of non-compliance and eliminate reliance on paper. We don't have to worry anymore about contracts being misfiled and we don’t have to email or copy them," says Lofton.
Lofton also finds that the journaling feature gives life to the contract. "It's especially useful in situations where you take over an existing contract. You can read the journals from prior negotiations throughout the contract's life and understand the history. It can save a lot of time with the legal department and avoid roadblocks."
Another advantage of journaling, according to Lofton, is that it helps with contract negotiations. "For example, if promises have been made by sales representatives that are not reflected in the agreement, the journals help to retrieve the relevant meeting notes and correspondence."
Journals cannot be deleted or altered after the fact. "That gives security," explains Lofton, "because if questions or disputes arise; for example, 'Why didn't you talk with vendor X?', I can go back to the journal and say 'Well, in fact I did and the outcome of that meeting is documented here.'"
"Contract Guardian provides accountability with its journaling,” according to Lofton. "It can help us to achieve substantial savings, because it enforces the correct procedures."
"Contract Guardian's ability to stop agreements from automatic renewal, provides for a potentially huge saving," explains Holland. "The system gives prior warning about agreements that are about to expire. That gives us time to research, look around for alternatives if necessary and negotiate a better deal."
"Enterprise wide deployment will give us an insight into what contracts exist. We may find out, for example, that multiple regions have their own contract at different levels with the same vendor. In that case, it would be time to talk with that vendor and negotiate better pricing - maybe covering more regions. It also allows us to properly redistribute some costs, such as annual maintenance and support. It is contract management without walls."
"Having the most current contracts in place and the information available and transparent do allow for improved purchasing decisions and strategic planning. It avoids ending up with disparate prices and allows for standardized product purchasing and use".
Contract Guardian helps us minimize the risk of non-compliance and eliminate reliance on paper
To date, CHRISTUS Health has six regions signed up with a few more to follow. The corporate Legal and Risk Management department is close to utilizing the solution as well, with the main focus to go across all the facilities and determine what contracts are in place.
Holland explains, "Deployment is simple and only requires placing an icon on the desktops of the users. Nothing else needs to be installed or maintained on the part of the client."
User training is equally simple. The solution comes with several recorded Webinars that visually demonstrate how to use the application. "Support and training have been wonderful, which is important, because you’re not only buying a product, you also gain the ability to partner with the company."
Holland concludes that now formal procedures are in place in Contract Guardian, it helps staff with their purchase decisions. "With Contract Guardian, the entire process is more transparent, which allows us to build our operations on a process, without depending on individual people."
Deployment is simple and only requires placing an icon on the desktops of the users
Company and System Information
- Headquartered in Dallas, CHRISTUS Health is an international Catholic, faith-based, not-for-profit health system composed of more than 50 hospitals, inpatient and long-term care facilities as well as dozens of clinics, physician offices and health care services in more than 60 cities in Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Georgia, Utah and Mexico. To provide care and support for patients, the system employs more than 28,000 Associates, with 8,000 physicians on facility medical staffs. CHRISTUS Health is listed among the top ten Catholic health systems in the U.S.
- For more information, visit www.christushealth.org
- Rippe & Kingston, a LANSA partner based in Cincinnati, Ohio, is an Information Technology firm that provides software solutions and services to clients around the world. R&K also has established partnerships with IBM, Microsoft and Avnet.
- For more information, visit www.rippe.com and www.contractguardian.com