Four Seasons Health Care (FSHC) is the UK’s leading independent health and social care provider. The company operates around 450 care homes and 60 hospitals and specialist care centres in England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, Jersey and the Isle of Man. FSHC currently employs over 30,000 staff caring for over 20,000 residents.
Having conducted continuous reviews of process efficiency across the entire organisation, FSHC had revealed focal points for improvement, with Accounts Payable being defined as a key area where two key benefits could be realised through a single, focused approach. First, centralising the function while introducing process automation could result in real cost savings and efficiency improvements, while driving out errors around areas such as invoice coding; and second, it would also free up people’s times at the individual care homes.This would allow them to focus on providing the highest levels of care.
Within Accounts Payable, FSHC were in a situation where individual business units received purchase invoices, coded, approved and sent them to a central Accounts Payable function at Darlington, resulting in the processing of approximately 310,000 purchase invoices per year. In addition to the staff members at the individual business units, the central Accounts Payable team had as many as 17 staff members at one time as a means of dealing with the processing and associated issues.
FSHC were very clear on the key objectives; purchase invoices were to be processed centrally with the highest levels of efficiency and accuracy, introducing key performance indicators and a platform that would allow for the continuous improvement and evolution of the process.
PROACTIS was selected on the basis that they could meet these objectives while also providing FSHC with proven referenceability and the ability to evidence real cost savings and efficiency improvements with existing UNIT4 customers. It was also clear that in addition to identifying how process automation could assist, PROACTIS could advise on how to get the most from the existing CODAFinancials finance solution due to the many years of integration experience and close partnership with UNIT4.
In conjunction with PROACTIS, FSHC were able to then start predicting the scope of process efficiency that could be expected, with process improvements being discussed and agreed to run alongside the initial solution.
Future phases were also discussed, providing a clear view of how the process could evolve, including how to get the most from the existing CODA-Financials finance system.
“PROACTIS was the only supplier who came forward with a range of Accounts Payable metrics from existing customers; this gave us real confidence and an ability to determine the tangible benefits of the solution”.
All of these factors combined, made PROACTIS the clear choice for FSHC, with a feeling that the two organisations could work in real partnership for the duration of the project and into the future.
The immediate impact of any centralisation initiative is the increased workload that then impacts the central function. Without wishing to add significantly to headcount, FSHC wanted the central function to be optimised in readiness for the increasing centralisation, confident that the number of staff members in the central function could handle the existing and potential volumes.
The first objective was to drive out as many resource-intensive tasks as possible. PROACTIS therefore looked at areas such as the time spent manually entering purchase invoices into the existing CODA finance system, the associated inefficiencies with invoice exceptions and working with paper. Through the introduction of document scanning, purchase invoices could be scanned with the invoice information “intelligently” extracted and automatically validated. A dedicated exception handling process was also defined and reporting introduced to substantially streamline this area.
These improvements allowed the central function to focus on aspects such as coding and approval, with the addition of automating the capture of coding information wherever possible to reduce the manual effort involved in this area. The “Intelligent” invoice data capture solution introduced powerful, template-free invoice data capture technologies, coupled with an advanced “learning” capability, allowing FSHC to enter values not automatically extracted the first time. The “learning” capability would then remember the location of the missed value as a means of driving continuous improvement from a data capture perspective.
A dedicated, web-based Exception Handler was deployed, which allowed FSHC to rapidly and efficiently resolve any validation issues such as missing or incorrect supplier information. The exception reporting also provided FSHC with a clear picture of the reasons and sources of the invoice exceptions, with a view to not just efficiently resolve exceptions but also engage suppliers and provide them with detailed information to drive out the exceptions at source.
With invoice volumes growing, FSHC continue to focus on process efficiency, with further initiatives relating to invoice approval and the effective capture of purchase invoices coming into the organisation. FSHC has recently embarked upon adding PDF capture capabilities to the solution; this will allow suppliers to email in PDF invoices without the need to print and scan the documents. The solution will automatically extract the PDF invoice and import it into the capture process, undergoing the same processes as a scanned paper invoice.
Other areas such as electronic invoicing and the scalability of the solution for other departments are also being looked at as FSHC seek to implement further process improvement and cost reduction across the organisation.