In 2013, University of Colorado Medicine first engaged Columbus to complete a rapid deployment of Microsoft Dynamics AX and simplify the delivery of financial reports, at the same time improving service levels for thousands of subscribers by providing more timely reporting with the details and in the formats they require. Today, Columbus continues to support the company’s ERP environment.
University of Colorado Medicine, formerly University Physicians Inc. (UPI), is a nonprofit company closely aligned with the University of Colorado School of Medicine. The company – also known as CU Medicine – provides a wide spectrum of business and administrative services, such as billing, collections, and disbursements, to the healthcare providers at the School of Medicine’s campuses and more than 150 clinics, as well as a number of its departments. Close to 3,000 individual healthcare professionals and several departments within the School of Medicine rely on CU Medicine for detailed financial reports, which they receive through subscriptions.
Rapid deployment of new ERP system
When a legacy finance system no longer fit CU Medicine’s needs, the company decided to implement Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012. The project was on a strict three-month deadline. Rick Schwartz, PMP, Senior Project Manager at University of Colorado Medicine, says, “We collaborated with Columbus to implement Microsoft Dynamics AX in under three months. Their work was very impressive. They helped our finance and IT teams connect on the requirements, optimized the ERP system for our needs, and supported our testing and rollout to users.”
More versatile, less costly, more efficient reporting tool
CU Medicine had been using a Solimar Rubika system to produce the subscription reports for School of Medicine healthcare professionals and departments. However, the CU Medicine IT team found the software challenging. Schwartz explains, “In Rubika, it was difficult for us to change the data feeds and formatting of reports, let alone create new reports. Our clients were asking for more information in addition to the four standard reports we already provided. Also, setting up the individual folders and permissions for our thousands of subscribers was a huge administrative chore.”
The IT team had expertise in SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS), which is the main reporting engine in Microsoft Dynamics AX. CU Medicine worked with Columbus to re-create its reports in SSRS. “Columbus succeeded where BI experts and database specialists had repeatedly failed,” says Schwartz. “They enabled us to build our reports in SSRS, make changes to them efficiently, and create new reports.”
By deactivating Rubika, CU Medicine not just saved annual software licensing costs, but also reduced the complexity of its IT environment. “Anytime you can simplify IT administration, reducing the number of software tools or replacing them with easier-to-use technology, you save time and make the team more effective,” notes Schwartz. “Columbus made this possible for us.”
Improving service levels and providing more timely and relevant reports
Once CU Medicine began using SSRS to create and deliver reports, it became much easier to offer information in the formats and with the detail that departmental clients and healthcare professionals asked for. CU Medicine currently publishes five general reports instead of the four it used to. In addition, the CU Medicine team created 15 self-service reports and 20 situational reports based on its clients’ various information requirements. Subscriptions are largely automated. Departments receive summary reports on the financial aspects of the work of their healthcare professionals, and the 3,000 medical-care subscribers get their individualized information, in a more timely manner.
Schwartz says, “It used to take us up to three months and much labor to deliver a report regarding the legal depositions of medical professionals and their payments for them. With Columbus’ assistance and using SSRS, we now get this information out within a month or faster. That makes it much easier for them and the departments to see what’s been paid and what’s outstanding. This is just one example where we provide valid, current data and greatly improved the transparency of healthcare financials.”
The feedback from users and clients has been positive. “The medical professionals are thrilled about their reports, which have become more effective in helping them manage their work,” Schwartz adds. “The departments enjoy increased visibility and control, and our CFO is delighted about our service quality.”
Strategic, collaborative partnership for creating value from technology
For CU Medicine, it’s important to be able to engage with a responsive, accountable technology partner that can contribute a wealth of expertise and resources. Schwartz notes, “In our multi-year engagement with Columbus, we’ve always had the same, excellent project manager. When they added a Dynamics AX functional consultant to the team, it became much easier to translate between our finance managers and developers. They also brought on developers when we were short-handed. In working with Columbus, we always realize a quick turnaround on our requests, no matter how complicated they may be.”
CU Medicine and its Columbus contacts meet weekly to discuss in-progress and upcoming projects. Near-future plans aim to further reduce the effort involved in delivering reports while increasing their promptness. CU Medicine and Columbus will configure Microsoft SharePoint Server in such a way that finance managers can on their own take care of reports, subscribers, and report distribution without assistance from the IT department.
The IT department also draws on Columbus’ competence in syncing its development, testing, and production environments, with plans to introduce automation to keep data current and reconciled in all three areas. Schwartz and some of his colleagues participate in Columbus events to learn more about technology trends and new capabilities in Microsoft Dynamics AX that could be of value for them. Summarizing the collaboration, Schwartz says, “We can truly count on Columbus as our partner. They resolve issues promptly, respond quickly to everything we ask for, and are enjoyable to work with. Because they empower us to use our own skills more effectively, we accomplish better outcomes with less effort.”