REVIEWER: Peter Gouws, chief financial officer for Loyola University Health System.

BACKGROUND: Loyola University Health System (Loyola) is a nationally recognized leader in providing health care and in conducting groundbreaking research to treat heart disease, cancer, organ transplantation and neurological disorders. Loyola, in conjunction with the Stritch School of Medicine and Loyola University Physician Foundation, has 1,322 faculty members, 452 residents, 100 fellows and 527 medical students.

PLATFORMS: We use the Microsoft BI platform: SQL Server 2005 – with Reporting Services, Integration Services and Analysis Services - Microsoft Office PerformancePoint Server 2007, Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007, Microsoft Office Excel 2007, Microsoft Office Business Scorecard Manager.

PROBLEM SOLVED: The systems we were using before implementing Microsoft’s BI platform were old, disparate and inefficient. Four different reporting systems each produced static reports that included inconsistent data and required hours of human interaction to update in order to produce meaningful data. We were looking for a system that would act as a single source of the information and provide consistency and flexibility in reporting - while keeping costs at a minimum. We had a lack of data integrity across reporting systems, and it was definitely holding us back. For us, the Microsoft BI solution opens the lines of communication and helps us make better decisions.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: We saw a huge improvement after implementing Microsoft’s BI platform, and much of that success can be attributed to the system’s ease of use and speed to which we can get results. For example, we immediately cut the billing lag time in half (from 28 days to 15) and were able to do so because we gained deep visibility into the accounts. It gave us an understanding of where process improvements could be made, which ultimately decreases risk to the business and financial liquidity because we now thoroughly use and understand the underlying data. This, in itself, was vital for the hospital. In addition, we were able to save a great deal of money by reducing the number of reporting systems (plus associated training costs) and the staff needed to support them. The single reporting system greatly improved efficiencies, allowing for reports to be distributed on the same portal and for unprofitable business lines to be better monitored and evaluated. Having a better understanding of the business lines and underlying data has also decreased the business risk within our organization.

STRENGTHS: Loyola has found Microsoft’s BI platform to be extremely easy to use. With our former solution, there were four different reporting applications and training took weeks. We currently have four years of consolidated data, both billing and general ledger, deployed out to all of our medical practices and their support staff. In addition, our employees have appreciated the ability for customization of Microsoft’s BI platform, and they now self-serve, creating monthly reports for themselves. We had a short amount of time, only 10 months, to fix our data management problem, and not a lot of money. After deciding to move forward with Microsoft’s solution, we were able to fix our multiple systems problem within five months and become fully deployed within eight. After researching several solutions, we truly believe Microsoft offers the only solution that could have solved our complex problem in the same time frame or the same budget.

WEAKNESSES: The only issue is the slow rollout of MS Office 2007 into the health care market, making that learning curve more difficult.

SELECTION CRITERIA: I was familiar with many of the other players in the BI space and knew that none of them would match Microsoft in terms of ease of use and cost. Moving forward with our existing system was not an option; it didn’t offer the functionality we needed. Other BI vendors would not have been a cost-effective choice nor would they meet our timeline. I also knew that the customization options were not as flexible. We needed custom views of our data, not prebuilt health care reports that were their version of our data.

DELIVERABLES: With our old solution, we had more than 40 standard reports and in a concerted effort to focus attention on the most critical issues the hospital faces were determined to get that down to a much lower number. With Microsoft’s BI platform, we were able to go from 40 to seven comprehensive reports, including month-by-month charges, AR days, lag days, match reports and visual representations of collection rates, which allowed us to be more effective and efficient in our work company-wide. In addition, many groups create other reports pertinent to their departments. And, we were able to do this without an increase in headcount, actually eliminating a few positions no longer needed.

VENDOR SUPPORT: We worked primarily with Revere Group, a Microsoft-managed gold certified partner in Chicago. They were instrumental in the depth of their Microsoft technology expertise and were able to bring helpful and relevant experiences in other industries to the table.

DOCUMENTATION: The documentation available for the products we used was very easy to understand, and Microsoft offered courses near our office, which we utilized.

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