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Solution found on the Web
Access managers despairing about their perceived inability to change things — and perhaps being held captive by outdated software — may take heart from this story of "thinking outside the box."
ScrippsHealth in San Diego was faced with a seemingly insurmountable obstacle, says Leonard Womack, CPC-H, manager of revenue management, about 18 months into the process of consolidating the chargemasters for the system’s six hospitals into a uniform numbering system.
"We were under the impression that our information services [IS] vendor was going to take the file, which had been created in Microsoft Excel, and then upload it into our system, which [the vendor] has done in the past on a smaller scale," Womack says. "However, when we brought it to their attention that we would hand over the information in early September to be done by Oct. 1, they informed us that their resources were too thin."
Instead, the vendor proposed scheduling the activity in February or March, he adds, a time frame that was not acceptable. Doing the task manually, Womack estimates, would have taken about one year for each of the six hospitals.
Faced with the daunting task of keying in some 17,000 lines of charge code, with 60 or 70 key strokes per code, Womack got quotes on services and consultants and came up with a budget of $38,000 for the project. The solution was less than satisfactory, he says, because of both the hefty price tag and the likelihood that there would be errors to correct, as with most repetitive keystroke tasks.
"It looked as though after a year and a half of hard work, the project couldn’t be done," Womack says, "but it seemed to me that the transfer of data from one program to another should be able to be done in an automated fashion."
With that in mind, he began searching the World Wide Web, using "macro" as the key word, Womack adds. "As I looked at the hits, I realized that was not the word I was looking for, but I found the term scripting.’ I searched there and found a couple of things, one of which finally worked out." The software he downloaded to provide the solution is called WinTask, he notes, and was developed by an independent software engineer in a village outside Paris. The program — a keyboard emulation tool — plays the role of a data entry employee, Womack explains, and types perfectly at a rate of 6,000 characters per minute.
Thirty-five additional uses for WinTask, which costs $400, have been identified, he says. The IS vendor originally slated to do the chargemaster work had planned to charge $5,000 per hospital for the upload, Womack adds.
By directing the software to a file of accounts to be rebilled, one person completed 5,000 rebills by lunchtime, he says. Normally, one biller can do about 50 rebills a day, so productivity for that job went from an expected 25 rebills per half day to 5,000.