Sick Kids seeks IT cure for manual processes

Faced with a working environment where seamless distribution of information is of critical importance, Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children is ready to wage war on paper and an employee culture of task-deferral, hospital IT systems director


One of the world’s largest pediatric care facilities in the world, Toronto’s Sick Children’s Hospital has says that it will automate its financial and supply chain management systems with help of PeopleSoft solutions. The project, which has been in development for the past seven months will go live in three weeks and affect about two thirds of the hospital’s existing systems as well as 1,200 users, says HSC information services business systems director John Aldis.

The rollout will begin with an e-procurement solution in January of 2003. That project means to banish the use of invoices in the hospital’s dealings with its suppliers, will also use PeopleSoft technology, Aldis says.

“”We’re heavily reliant on paper forms and manual processes, and integration of information is basically not there on the financial side,”” he says. “” Obviously we can be doing better than we are on that score.””

Aldis says that faster access to accurate data is crucial in an information-heavy environment like the hospital. Determined to improve the flow of information and reduce the huge organization’s dependence on the IT department to generate reports, hospital execs looked to its 1997 automation of HR and payroll systems for ideas.

HSC had chosen to introduce the PeopleSoft Human Resources Management solution as an alternative to doing a ground-up business process reengineering exercise. The hospital successfully took the best features of PeopleSoft and the best business practices built into the design of the software and drove them through the organization, Aldis says.

“”HR and payroll have made tremendous gains since then, there self-service is the name of the game,”” he says. “”The instinct on the part of the managers, when it comes to payroll and HR is not to pick up the phone or fire off an e-mail but to get into PeopleSoft and get the information themselves.””

The goal, he says, is to eventually change the attitudes of hospital staff and get them accustomed to a fully self-service environment.

Besides improving efficiency and cutting administrative costs, making financial information available online and accessible wherever the employee may be within the hospital is a big step towards HSC’s goal of becoming a real-time enterprise, Aldis says.

The move over to real-time is a trend gathering momentum among enterprises in all sectors of the economy, says University of Toronto adjunct professor of management Don Tapscott.

Tapscott says that increased transparency of business practices to the public is making real-time operations critical for companies wanting to survive in a tough economy where the public suspects most businesses of backroom scheming and secret unethical practices.

“”Look at companies like Nike and the bad press it got,”” he says. “” It is no longer acceptable for a company to say ‘We didn’t know,’ especially since increasingly your customers know (a lot) about you and your company,”” Tapscott says.

“”They see you when you’re sleeping, they know when you’re awake, so you better be good,”” he adds.

It follows then, he says, that in a climate of scrutiny it no longer pays to cut corners. Efficiency is key and one of the best ways to become efficient is to ensure free flow of information within the company and there is no better platform for the distribution of crucial information than the internet.

“”Real-time price discovery and on-demand reports are your best weapons, and putting them onto the net is just taking advantage of this public infrastructure’s tendency to lower transaction costs,”” he says.

Aldis agrees, and says that real-time has been the only option for years.

“”In a hospital environment real-time takes on a whole new meaning. Medical systems are real time. Information technology systems are very much integrated with them. In the last few years they’ve become inseparable, the line is invisible now,”” he says.

The successes of the previous service automation projects are making the staff at HSC optimistic about the journey they’re about to embark on, Aldis says. The PeopleSoft solution makes sense for the hospital, he adds, because even though some of its competitors’ products have more features, this solution has a more comfortable user interface and requires little training.

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