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Chrome River – How I did it: Modernising invoice approval for a rapidly-growing organisation

The University of Pennsylvania Health System (UPHS) is a diverse research and clinical care organization based in Philadelphia. Founded in 1993, it currently operates as Penn Medicine, a division of the University of Pennsylvania that includes four hospitals, two regional medical centers and a multitude of clinical care providers in the greater Philadelphia area. In this guest blog post, Steve Kelly, UPHS’ director of disbursements, outlines how the organization lets business flow by delivering a mobile, highly-automated integrated expense and invoice automation solution.

The University of Pennsylvania Health System is a world-renowned academic medical center in Philadelphia, which consistently advances medical science through research to create the next generation of leaders in medicine. To enable us to continuously innovate, our financial processes needed to be enhanced and modernized, to better support the needs of the organization and our employees. One of these was invoice approval.

Our manual process worked well for almost 30 years, but it was only when our hospital system started to acquire new facilities – and acquire them rapidly – that we started to see cracks. We knew that our system couldn’t be patched – we had to find a solution in the market that could handle where we are today and where we might be 15-20 years from now. In essence, we needed a solution that could evolve and scale with us. We needed invoice management that was future-proof.

We were specifically looking for an invoice automation solution that would allow our end-users to create and submit invoices electronically, enforce compliance to our business rules, and automatically route invoices for required data entry and approvals prior to sending them to our accounts payable department for payment. With our previous manual approval process, the AP team would – more often than not – receive invoices that were missing required data fields, or those that had not been approved for payment by the department itself. This caused our AP team to spend valuable time going back and forth with the different departments to gather the missing data, and also in securing the approvals required for payments to be made. As our healthcare network continued to grow with more facilities in eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey, you can image that the courier costs started rising as we kept sending paper invoice forms back and forth to all the locations. It was a highly inefficient and expensive process.

In addition, while our AP team is based in Philadelphia, a significant number of those in the approval chain travel to conferences and other events, so they need to be able to review and approve invoices while on the road, to avoid any delay in the payment process. Therefore, a mobile invoice processing solution was a top priority.

We’d already been using Chrome River’s expense automation solution for some time, and both end-users and the AP team liked its ease of use. It therefore made a lot of sense for us to strongly consider the company’s invoice automation solution as well. After reviewing several other solutions, we decided upon Chrome River INVOICE. 

In addition to Chrome River INVOICE having the same ease of use, flexibility and mobility as Chrome River EXPENSE, it met all of our functional requirements. It ensures that forms are compliant, by enforcing all required data to be supplied prior to invoices being submitted to AP for payment. It also enforces review and approval by department leaders before routing invoices to AP. Approval rules are built-in to route invoices to individual AP team members’ queues for payment. Chrome River INVOICE also provides the ability to approve or return invoices via email, including the ability to view supporting documentation and invoice data elements.

Another reason Chrome River was selected was its straightforward integration with our Infor/Lawson financial system. Most importantly, we received all the benefits without changing our processes, our business rules or user roles. Chrome River’s invoice software is flexible and configurable to fit the way we work – not the other way around.

The benefits that we enjoy from invoice automation are straightforward. Department users and invoice creators love the ability to track invoices through to the approval process. Everyone can see where their invoice is in the approval and payment workflow. They also benefit from faster turnaround time of approvals and submission to AP for payment. Since our business rules are built into the software, out-of-compliance invoices are automatically returned to the submitter for clarification and then resubmitted – eliminating the ‘black hole.’

From day one, we experienced a 50% savings in the time and effort it takes to process invoices. And that savings isn’t bottled up in the AP department. Each department that submits invoices shares in that savings – we’ve made our exact same process infinitely easier for them. Some of the other benefits include:

  • Form entry compliance
  • Built-in, role-based approvals
  • Email approvals/view supporting documents
  • Visibility into invoice processes
  • Analytics reporting visibility
  • Full mobility for travelers

Most importantly, by automating all of its previously manual processes, our AP team has freed up time, which can now be spent on higher-value initiatives. Chrome River has enabled us to uncover valuable insights into our financial data and increase automation throughout the back office. The solutions empower both end-users and the finance team, removing all of the non-value-add steps, which has in turn freed up time to allow the shared services team to better support its internal clients.

Steve Kelly is the director of disbursements at the University of Pennsylvania Health System

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