When Ellis Medicine, a large healthcare system in Schenectady, New York, purchased a new point of sale system, InfoGenesis, they found it could not easily integrate with their other critical systems. Jerry Adach, Manager of Web, Data, and Automation at Ellis Medicine, and his team needed to quickly come up with a solution to get past this roadblock and get their systems working together.
The POS system was needed to allow employees to use their hospital-issued ID badges to swipe when they purchased food in the cafeteria and had the dollar amount deducted from their pay. Data needed to be transferred from InfoGenesis to the Ellis HR system, API Healthcare, interacting with the internal enterprise SQL Server and Microsoft Exchange along the way.
At first, they thought they could create custom scripts to integrate the software. They quickly realized how time-intensive and complicated custom scripts would be to develop and support, particularly because the process involved multiple systems, checks, and reformatting of data. While doing research on a potential solution to their problem, Adach learned about robotic process automation (RPA) and came across a tool from Fortra called Automate.
Why Choose Automate RPA?
After downloading a trial, Adach quickly found Automate powerful, yet easy to use, and saw the value almost immediately. Not only did seeing Automate in action help him understand the product, but he also discovered the power of RPA. “The lightbulbs went off and I got excited,” Adach says.
Adach was able to integrate Automate with their InfoGenesis POS system directly and enable the payroll deduction process to run each night—all without complex scripts. With the full support of Ellis’s CIO, they moved forward with RPA and never looked back.
Aside from Automate’s ability to integrate with their critical business applications, there were other reasons Automate was the right choice. “The support is the best support I’ve ever dealt with,” Adach says. “The fact that I was able to call someone direct and get support within five minutes really hit me.” Ellis also found that Automate offered more value for the price than the other RPA vendors they researched.
Michael DiPoffi, Sr. Web and Database Developer, was impressed by how intuitive the Automate software is. “I think I had one training session, and after that, I was building automation for our financial applications,” DiPoffi says. “It was very easy to use.”
Centralizing and Streamlining Processes Throughout Ellis
Since implementing Automate over two years ago, Adach and DiPoffi have been busy centralizing and streamlining more and more processes with RPA. They currently have five bots (digital workers) in production—performing approximately 65 processes—across the IT, accounting, human resources, and revenue cycle departments at Ellis, just to name a few.
Prior to using Automate, Ellis had a very decentralized way of handling the massive amounts of data coming and going to third-party vendors like insurance companies, healthcare organizations, government entities, and others. These tasks were performed in many ways throughout the organization: manually in silos by business analysts, others by scripts, and the rest was done using other applications. Many of these processes were undocumented which became very difficult to support.
After doing a discovery of these processes, they handed over the work to RPA bots to centralize the workflows for all data extractions and file deliveries. This greatly increased efficiency and freed the business analysts from these time-intensive processes. And support was much easier thanks to Automate’s built-in error alerts and having the processes done in one, uniform way.
In Accounting, they automated journal entries so accountants no longer need to manually enter data on a green screen—saving the accounting team 750-1,000 hours per year.
The area where Ellis has seen the most value from Automate, so far, has been in the revenue cycle department. They started with a very complicated process—involving 26 pages of instructions—manually transforming and posting transaction data from Excel into XML, then reformatting again to a specific transaction format. Once complete, a series of emails were sent, and then everything is reconciled the next day.
Now, Automate completes these processes without anyone at Ellis having to touch it. Outside vendors send transactions, which Automate picks up from SFTP sites, processes the data, and posts it right into Ellis’ financial management system, Soarian Financials.
Growing a Culture of Automation
When they first implemented RPA, Adach and DiPoffi automated the processes they knew could generate quick wins. Their director is a champion of RPA within the organization, which has started to get more people excited about what RPA can do for them. This has gotten other departments thinking of new opportunities for automation as they hear about what they have been doing.
With RPA, instead of simply replicating processes in bot form, Adach and DiPoffi evaluate the old process documents, interview users, and transform processes into more efficient workflows. “We’re doing things differently, and it’s affecting a lot of areas in the hospital,” Adach says. “We’re doing things we could never do before.”
Adach hopes to automate the onboarding and provisioning process soon, which is currently running in a custom-built web app relying on many PowerShell scripts and SQL Server stored procedures. He also wants to help improve things on the clinical side of operations to interact with their core EHR, Cerner Millennium, as most of their efforts have been on the business side. Eventually, he hopes to have a whole team of people building automation at Ellis.
In looking to expand RPA across a large organization, Adach recognizes that he will need to showcase his results to Ellis’s leadership in order to accomplish that goal and is working to educate the organization about all the things RPA can do. As Adach said, “This whole RPA space requires a culture change and it’s going to take time to evolve. The technology is not going away. It’s going to grow.”
About Ellis Medicine
Ellis Medicine is a 438-bed community and teaching healthcare system serving the metropolitan area of Schenectady, New York. It comprises four campuses–Ellis Hospital, Ellis Health Center, Bellevue Woman’s Center and Medical Center of Clifton Park—and five additional service locations offering inpatient and outpatient services, including cardiac, cancer, emergency, neuroscience and women’s services. Ellis has more than 3,300 employees and more than 700 medical staff.