Information Flow is your Lifeblood - how clean, enriched data can reduce invoice disputes
By Graham Medwell, Healthcare Product Strategist at specialist technology company, VirtualStock
"Getting your data into digital form at the point of origin reduces re-entry and virtually eliminates errors." Advice from Bill Gates that the NHS and its suppliers would do well to heed, as trusts look to introduce digitised Purchase to Pay, GS1 data standards and catalogue management systems, such as those advocated by Lord Carter in his recent reports on unwarranted variation.
So how do NHS trusts and suppliers provide the building blocks to help the flow of healthy data through the system?
82% of NHS IT professionals state that system interoperability is now their highest priority (2018 NHS IT Leadership survey). Using good quality, rich data helps systems to talk to each other and filters out those problems that cause common invoice queries.
By cleansing and digitising catalogue data, invoice disputes can be headed off at the beginning of the process, rather than resolution being tackled at the end, ensuring information flow is improved - and presumably making Bill Gates happy! The process of dispute resolution and data cleansing needs to be managed as a project with clear objectives, outcomes and resources. A detailed plan is required with a focus on the 20% of products which cause 80% of invoice errors.
In my experience, one of the main causes of invoice dispute is the lack of system interoperability and communication within organisations at the point of agreeing a contract. This may be caused by a sales representative or a category manager within a hospital not updating their systems with the contract reference or approved price; a supplier contract reference being different to the one assigned by the hospital (or not mapped) to enable invoice resolution; or a buyer ordering product against an out-of-date price list. It is therefore vital that the same contract reference is made digital at the point of contract agreement. After all, you've worked hard in the tender process and signing the deal, so you want to avoid maverick spend slipping through a leaky bucket to your competitors.
Working with the hospital to ensure contract compliance is vital, and this is where The Edge4Health can help. A supplier-managed catalogue solution such as The Edge4Health moves NHS trusts from free text requisitioning (or telephone orders) to a web basket requisitioning process with consistency in price, description and quantity per unit of measure, removing the main causes of invoice disputes.