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Getting SaaS-y

February 21, 2011
by Jay Carter
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Why the Sisters of Mercy Health System Opted for On-Demand Portfolio Management
Sisters of mercy health system choose the saas model over traditional licensed software.
Sisters of Mercy Health System
Sisters of Mercy Health System choose the SaaS model over traditional licensed software.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Sisters of Mercy Health System chose the SaaS model as a simpler way to plan, execute, and monitor strategic business initiatives. It also provided something that was easy to use and offered quick time to value.

Information technology plays a vital role in the day-to-day operations of the Sisters of Mercy Health System (Mercy), the eighth largest Catholic healthcare system in the U.S. with operations in seven states and 37,000 co-workers. For more than 23 years, Chesterfield, Mo.-based Mercy has served as the parent corporation for 21 acute care hospitals, three heart hospitals, outpatient care facilities and much more.

LIKE MANY HEALTHCARE ORGANIZATIONS, WE ARE AMONG A GROWING GROUP THAT IS ADOPTING SOFTWARE AS A SERVICE (SAAS) TECHNOLOGIES BASED ON THE LOW COST, ADAPTABILITY, AND TIME TO VALUE THESE SERVICES OFFER.

The office I work in at Mercy, the Enterprise Project Office (EPO), is responsible for tracking all IT and Mercy-wide strategic capital projects to ensure they are mapping back to our business objectives. Most notably, the EPO has spearheaded the implementation of an electronic health record system supplied by Epic, Verona, Wis.

Like many healthcare organizations, we are among a growing group that is adopting software as a service (SaaS) technologies based on the low cost, adaptability, and time to value these services offer. Recently, I was involved in the transformation of Mercy's portfolio management system comprised of office productivity tools like Microsoft Project and Microsoft SharePoint. We decided that a SaaS-based solution would be ideal for this type of function, because it would give us a single portal for planning, executing, and monitoring all ministry initiatives.

SEEKING AN ALTERNATIVE

Microsoft Project and Microsoft SharePoint are valuable programs, but they can be difficult and time-consuming to use when it comes to planning, executing, and monitoring large scale IT initiatives-particularly when the initiative involves highly collaborative areas like project intake and governance, project status reporting, portfolio management, resource management, time reporting, and project scheduling. We simply weren't getting enough visibility into our project portfolio and struggled to allocate the right resources at the right time. We needed a centralized system in place to evaluate project requests, monitor project execution, and enable project communications.

WE HAVE ALSO BUILT CUSTOM DASHBOARDS TO MEET OUR UNIQUE NEEDS, WHICH INCLUDE MASTER SCHEDULE COMPONENTS, RESOURCE CAPACITY, PORTFOLIO COMPOSITION AND RISK SCORING.

Further, the implementation and administrative overhead of using point productivity tools like Project and SharePoint to manage strategic initiatives was time-consuming. It took the EPO three business days every month to collect and synthesize project and portfolio data, then format the content for further consumption. Team members had to dedicate a substantial portion of their time to re-keying information from multiple, disparate data sources. And, it was difficult for senior leaders to aggregate and track project initiatives and other performance measurements.

Our goal was to create a simpler way to plan, execute, and monitor strategic business initiatives. We also needed something that was easy to use, offered quick time to value, and could be delivered to us via a SaaS model.

SIMPLIFYING WITH SAAS

Ease of use was an important requirement for us, because the easier the software would be to use, the faster it could be deployed and adopted within our organization. In this regard, a SaaS model has certain advantages over traditional licensed software for a variety of reasons.

First, software and security updates and upgrades happen automatically and regularly, so there is no need to purchase or install the newest version of the software. This means we don't have to deal with the incompatibilities that can occur because different people or departments are on different versions of the software. Second, a SaaS solution would require less support from our heavily-burdened IT department. In making our decision, we weighed the various investments in resources required to install, manage, and maintain traditional software. The fact that SaaS services are hosted by the software developer, and that maintenance and upgrades are included in the subscription were obvious draws. Bottom line: SaaS services provide a level of fiscal flexibility and low up- front risk and cost that over the long run delivers very favorable return on investment.

EASE OF USE WAS AN IMPORTANT REQUIREMENT FOR US, BECAUSE THE EASIER THE SOFTWARE WOULD BE TO USE, THE FASTER IT COULD BE DEPLOYED AND ADOPTED WITHIN OUR ORGANIZATION.

WITH THE NEW SYSTEM, THE EPO AT MERCY IS NOW ABLE TO MAKE TIMELY DECISIONS ON PROJECTS THAT NEED FURTHER INVESTMENT AND FLAG PROJECTS THAT SHOULD TO BE POSTPONED OR CANCELED.

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