by John Minahan, CEO of Mindful Health Solutions
Growing a healthcare business, or any business for that matter, requires processes that can scale. As you grow your business, the need for accurate, timely, and actionable data is the main ingredient for success. On the flip side is the lack of accurate and timely data, which becomes the main ingredient of failure.
What slows down company scaling and growth?
There are many software solutions available on the market for almost every problem or process. Some companies take the path of building their own solution. However, the implementation of either an out-of-the-box or internal solution takes time. A lot of time. It involves committees, selection, training, and implementation. As people are always trying to solve too many problems at once, scope creep becomes a major concern. Meanwhile, in the absence of a solution, spreadsheets proliferate.
The use of spreadsheets is not a process, or at least it’s not a real process. Huge spreadsheets with dozens of tabs are not manageable. Trying to control spreadsheets through emails or shared drives allows for errors and there is no data integrity. Between emailing different versions and people not updating the data, they create an extremely limited value. From a compliance perspective, there is no ability to audit or track changes. (The most impactful change that came out of SOX, in my opinion, was the push away from spreadsheets due to the lack of controls.) Ultimately, spreadsheets do not allow for organizational scale.
How can you still grow your business while scaling at the same time?
For companies to scale while still growing fast, it is best to use a phased software development approach, which allows for gradual rollout without disrupting operations. With this phased approach, you work backward from the concept of what a total solution would look like and build the most important and/or simplest functions first. Most importantly, you can adjust almost anything along the way. By doing so, you can build basic functionality while solving major constraints.
It is important to note that working backward helps create highly focused solutions that solve one problem at a time. Additionally, it is important to have very few stakeholders while working with this approach. Both working backward and having few stakeholders help to prevent scope creep as you work toward a solution, allowing your business to grow and scale continually.
How does Mindful Health Solutions use this phased approach?
At Mindful Health Solutions, we have several solutions that have been extremely impactful to the business. All of them replaced spreadsheets and allow for limitless scale. Each also solved a single problem and was designed and implemented within weeks.
In healthcare, credentialing is a constraint to revenue growth and profit. If a company does not credential correctly, so many other things go wrong downstream. We built a solution in phases.
The goal of Phase I was to allow providers to create an account and upload all the information needed to start the credentialing process. That is all it did; gather all the information in one location. It let us know what percentage of information each provider had uploaded. If we needed to, we would move the start date based on how responsive the providers were. Everyone involved could see it: the provider, HR manager, recruiter, and credentialing department. No spreadsheets needed.
We cut the time to credential in half with this simple first phase. A year later, we now have a fully functional credentialing solution that we built out with following phases. During this process, we did not have to sacrifice speed, and there was little to no transition time.
Another spreadsheet process for most healthcare companies is one used by the intake or call center to know what providers are credentialed with what insurance at what location. Our old process was to spend half a day on Mondays updating a spreadsheet on the shared drive. Then, all intake personnel would search through this spreadsheet while on the phone with a patient. This process might work with 10 providers, but definitely not 100, or 1000.
We built a solution for this in a matter of weeks. Since all the information resides in the credentialing software, we just created a simple search page that the whole of the intake team could access. What used to take two minutes (give or take) per call now takes seconds. When your company handles thousands of calls a week, a simple solution like this is invaluable. After creating the search page in Phase I, we added other functions like open panels and specialties.
Another issue facing fast-growing healthcare companies is onboarding providers. When we onboard a provider, there are over 80 tasks involving 11 different departments. How was this handled? With spreadsheets on the shared drive.
We were able to produce a Phase I solution in less than two weeks. We simply enter a start date, and each task is then automatically given a countdown due date. We meet weekly for 10 minutes to review. The result of this solution is that we can now onboard 15 new providers a month with no issues and no spreadsheets needed. We now do the same when hiring new therapists and opening new clinic locations. Everything scales and no spreadsheets are ever used.
For us to help as many patients as possible, we must scale, and we must grow. Creating highly focused solutions while working backward through a phased approach has proven successful for us. We are continually admitting new patients, hiring new providers, and opening new clinic locations, all thanks to this effective process and, best of all, zero spreadsheets. I hope these insights help you to quickly yet efficiently scale and grow your business.