Making an investment into budgeting software is long-term commitment for a hospital or healthcare facility. When choosing a new budget preparation and management software solution, healthcare providers should consider certain key elements.
Although there are hundreds questions to ask, some key areas to consider when choosing a new budgeting software vendor include experience and success, hosting and security, integration and configurability, implementation and cost and training and support.
“A typical healthcare facility has a couple of main pain points to address,” explains Dustin Ide, who is senior account executive for healthcare at Burlington, Ontario-based Questica Budget. “[Those points] usually center around salaries and position planning. Anywhere from 70 to 80 percent of a hospital’s budget is people. A tool that helps them accurately budget for personnel resources is an extremely valuable tool.”
Questica has been building, implementing and selling capital and operating budgeting software since 1998. Its customers include hospitals, healthcare facilities, governments, educational institutions and nonprofit organizations throughout North America.
Questica Budget infoQuestica has helped hundreds of organizations eliminate inefficient spreadsheets to opt for a budgeting, performance, transparency and stakeholder engagement solution that better enables data-driven budgeting and decision-making, while increasing data accuracy, saving time and improving stakeholder trust.
“Many of our customers have generally used Excel when budgeting,” Ide says. “They have hundreds of different Excel files that someone had to pull together and analyze to put them into a meaningful and consolidated structure so that executives can sign off on where they wanted to spend their money.”
The problem with budgeting in that manner is that Excel files are typically built by one or two key employees. “If something goes wrong, that person needs to be there to fix it,” Ide adds. “There’s a tremendous amount of corporate risk in budgeting that way. What if that person leaves the company?” Questica’s solutions are highly scalable and are designed to be implemented at organizations that manage budgets of a few million to those that manage multibillion-dollar budgets.
Experience and Success
A budgeting software vendor should have experience in working for healthcare organizations and an understanding of their diverse needs.
Vendors should be knowledgeable about hospitals and healthcare facilities’ processes, funding models and reporting requirements. A vendor may offer a solution that appears to meet today’s needs. But what about tomorrow?
Solid companies continue to invest into the future, adding to the core product in anticipation of changes to the overall product suite as well as the changing marketplace.
“We are not just a software company that provides a few updates,” Ide says. “We really look at investing in our software and into our different modules. About 30 percent of our staff are developers.”
Questica Budget’s operating, salary and capital multi-user budgeting system provides scenarios for staff planning, a statistical ledger and unlimited what-if funding scenarios. Its budgeting software integrates with all of the major financial and human resource systems used by hospitals and other healthcare facilities.
It’s important to make sure that potential vendors are financially stable and focused on a long-term strategy — because transitioning again will be no small task. Other things to consider include how long the vendor has been in business, if they have experience in healthcare and if they can offer references.
Questica has customers in 46 states and 10 provinces and territories, the company prides itself its ability to develop products to meet the diverse needs of its customers.
Hosting and security
Budgeting software vendors should be able to offer multiple deployment options. Their solutions should be time- and cost-efficient and not disruptive to the workflow of the organization during or after implementation.
Questica offers both traditional on-premise and cloud-based budgeting software solutions. But many of its healthcare industry clients – concerned about protecting patient information – often choose to utilize on-premise budgeting software installation and management.
“That tends to be the model most hospitals go with,” Ide says. “They don’t want their data leaving the premises.”
On-premise hosting allows an organization to retain its information within its own secure network. However, that solution requires the hospital to pay for its own IT infrastructure, software licensing and IT charge-backs.
Some healthcare organizations are still concerned about potential security leaks related to cloud software. But today’s cloud-based hosting provides security that may be difficult or cost prohibitive for some organizations to achieve on their own.
Cloud-based and/or subscription-based offerings can also provide upfront savings since an organization is not paying for hardware or spending time applying infrastructure patches and upgrades. “So instead of owning it, you rent the software and then you don’t have to host it,” Ide adds.
Aside from hosting, it’s also important to consider how to control who has access to the budget platform, which often contains sensitive and confidential information such as employee salaries. Software administrators should be able to set permissions to determine who has access.
Questica Budget 2In addition, the system should be able to track changes and provide an audit trail. Also, it’s important to ask whether the vendor offers automatic system upgrades or if an organization can choose when to implement software updates and upgrades.
“Upgrades are usually available two to three times per year, but we don’t force our customers to upgrade at a specific time,” Ide says.
Questica is 100 percent web-based and supports the most commonly used browsers. Its solutions don’t require a
footprint on individual workstations and there’s no need for IT to install or distribute software when new releases or updates are made available. Unlike some vendors, the company allows its customers full access to their budget data at all times.
Both its on-premise and cloud hosting solution software is installed as single-tenant, allowing for changes and updates at its customers’ schedules.
Integration and Configurability
Since healthcare organizations draw financial information from numerous departments and systems, a budgeting platform isn’t useful and cost-efficient if it doesn’t integrate with their pre-existing software to import the necessary data.
When choosing a new solution, healthcare providers should look at a vendor that can work with their enterprise resource planning (ERP), financial, payroll, human resources, patient information systems and other programs to ensure that the right data is always available.
Budgeting software should be configured before use. Most software is designed to handle various configurations and behaves predictably in any allowed configuration.
Customization is always an option and may include rewriting part of the delivered functionality or development of new or additional functionality. Since customizations may be invasive and/or costly to maintain, Questica recommends fully examining their impact prior to implementation.
“We offer our software by modules,” Ide says. “So, if you don’t need capital budgeting, you don’t buy that module. A typical healthcare customer model includes operating and capital modules, a salary and position planning module and the add-on performance module, allocation, staff planning and statistical ledger.”
Other budgeting solutions may offer many of the same capabilities, but require extensive customization. Questica’s products offer tailored work flows, change requests and interdepartmental allocations, user-defined fields and configurable entry screens. They also provide report scheduling and automated distribution, dashboards, and advanced search capabilities for detailed analysis and better decision-making.
Questica can handle diverse budget requirements including multi-year budgeting, advance calculation engine, allocations, performance indicators and financial statements – to name a few.
Its robust analytics, dashboards and reporting capabilities allow healthcare organizations to have access to trends, insights and alerts to assist in decision making.
Its transparency and sharing tools allow for better engagement with internal and external stakeholder groups. Questica Budget is integrated with more than 25 financial systems and has extensive experience with SAP, Oracle, MediSolutions, PeopleSoft, Dynamics GP and Meditech. It also integrates with human resource and patient information management systems.
Implementation and Cost
The cost of new technology is a major consideration for any healthcare organization. But when choosing a budgeting software vendor, an organization should consider more than cost and evaluate factors such as hosting, security, integrations, customizations, training, support and the vendor’s overall fit.
When comparing vendor quotes, try to include a very specific, detailed set of requirements. Vendors will quote based on those requirements.
“Questica understands the pressure hospitals and healthcare facilities face to maximize the value and return on their investments, which is why we offer a comprehensive end-to-end budgeting platform at a competitive price,” Ide says. “We have decades of experience with project management and control methodologies to manage the project and implementation process efficiently and effectively.”
The company also offers both license purchase and SaaS costing models to offer flexibility.
Training and Support
A new solution will fail if employees don’t know how to use it. The solution should be intuitive, well laid out and delivered with proper training.
In addition, healthcare providers should consider if the vendor provides multi-level support services. Questica provides full installation documentation with every release, as well as implementation assistance, technical support and online help.
It also offers full training either in-person or through its online learning platform for administrators and general users. Questica also offers additional user group education and networking opportunities including regular customer webinar and user group half and full day in-person events. +
TAGS: Questica Budget, healthcare facilities, hospitals, budgeting software, personnel resource