At Nemours Children’s Health, keeping kids healthy takes strong technology

One of the nation’s leading pediatric healthcare systems relies on Oracle technology to support over 8,000 associates whose mission is to care for kids.

Mark Jackley | July 14, 2022

When he talks about the mission of Nemours Children’s Health, Bernie Rice, senior vice president and chief information officer, registers empathy and pride. His son, who was born with a heart murmur, was treated at a practice within the Nemours system, one of the largest pediatric healthcare systems in the US. “Being able to deliver a sense of hope to the parent of a sick child is an amazing gift,” he says.

More than 8,000 Nemours Children’s associates care for more than 480,000 kids a year in two free-standing children’s hospitals in Wilmington, Delaware, and Orlando, Florida, and in 72 primary and specialty care practices—including the one in Jacksonville, Florida, where Rice’s son received care. It all started in 1936 when philanthropist Alfred I. duPont bequeathed his estate for the creation of the Nemours Foundation, a nonprofit organization devoted to improving children’s health.

In fulfilling that mission, Nemours delivers what Associate CIO Jackie Gustafson calls “the full package.” Beyond clinical care, Nemours focuses on the whole child: emotional well-being, education, family dynamics, and going well beyond medicine to keep children healthy. Its site is one of the most-searched global sources for information on children’s health. Nemours is a top medical research institution too, with more than 529 active research projects and clinical trials.

Nemours is a rewarding place to work. However, like any healthcare system, it can also be stressful, especially for nurses, doctors, and other frontline staff. One way to ease the stress: provide a user-friendly human resources system that makes it simple to find vacation balances, training videos, pay stubs, and other important information—things a nurse coming off a long shift doesn’t have time to hunt down. That’s where Rice, Gustafson, and their technology team came into the picture, doing their part in the mission to keep kids healthy.

Growing pains

As Nemours grew, tripling its revenue, almost quadrupling its physical space, and continuing to add staff, its HR systems became complex, with information scattered across multiple portals, making it difficult for associates to find what they needed.

By 2018, Nemours had two aging ERP platforms, one of them due to be retired. The other ERP platform housed the organization’s human capital management suite. Interfaces between the two platforms grew increasingly complicated, and the cost of supporting both was rising steadily. “We needed a single enterprise ERP platform to simplify our systems,” Rice says. That meant moving Nemours’ on-premises systems to applications living on a centralized cloud.

Rice and Gustafson worked with consultants at Gartner to evaluate 11 ERP suites. After thorough vetting, they chose an integrated suite of Oracle Fusion Cloud ERP and Oracle Fusion Cloud HCM.

“We liked that Oracle owns the whole stack, whether it’s the hardware we run on, the database, or the data centers,” Rice says. “That gives Oracle insight others don’t have if they’re running their systems in somebody else’s data center, on top of somebody else’s database or operating system. We were also very impressed with Oracle’s security design. They have more people in security than I have in my entire department.”

Early technology wins

Nemours went live on Oracle Cloud HCM in April 2021. Payroll launched this past January and ERP systems including finance and supply chain will follow this fall. While the journey has just begun, Gustafson sees key processes already have improved.

“We’ve started to offer one-stop shopping for our end users,” she says. “For instance, frontline users can now securely access pay stubs from anywhere, and they’re available in real time. That’s a huge win, because in the past the information was integrated from different systems and offered on a pay-period basis, not right away. People of course like getting their information faster, whether on their mobile devices or their home computers.”

We liked that Oracle owns the whole stack, whether it’s the hardware we run on, the database, or the data centers. That gives Oracle insight others don’t have.

Bernie Rice Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer, Nemours Children’s Health

Handling employee reviews and performance management is also faster and easier. Before, Nemours used a custom application that wasn’t integrated. “Now, we have performance goals and everything else all on one screen,” Rice says. “I can click on Jackie’s goals, and we can do a quick check-in. Things are more integrated, and because I can use my phone or laptop, they’re much more convenient.”

With telecommuting surging, the new platform also helps Nemours manage remote workers, such as identifying which states they’re in and knowing they have the equipment and tech support required to do their jobs.

Other improvements will happen soon. For instance, Rice and Gustafson plan to automate more of the onboarding process. From the moment people accept a job, the system will convert them from candidate to associate, reserve an email address and user ID, and schedule required training. Those steps are currently manual and can take a couple of days.

New managers will benefit from similar upgrades. “When we hire a manager, certain pieces have to come into place,” Gustafson says. “For example, with the unification of HCM and payroll, we’ll get them up to speed faster on timecards and issue a timekeeper ID,” enabling them to manage timecards from day one.

In the near future, line managers will have access to an Oracle Fusion Analytics for HCM dashboard that gives a bird’s eye view of their teams, showing current staff, job openings and compensation levels, and letting them automate vacancy reports to accelerate new hires. When managers put in a job requisition, they’ll have line of sight throughout the process, from budget approval to various executive sign-offs with reduced integration headaches and a consistent user experience that’s native to Oracle Cloud HCM and ERP.

In today’s tight labor market for nurses and other healthcare professionals, a speedier hiring process provides a competitive advantage. Accelerating job descriptions, interviews, and offers saves precious time and helps land talent. “We’re hiring faster than ever before,” Rice says. “If we don’t move quickly enough on someone we want to hire, another organization is going to snap them up.”

Building a frictionless workplace

To let caregivers focus on patients, Rice and Gustafson focus on eliminating friction in everyday tasks. It helps to have a platform that’s simple to explore. Along with Oracle Guided Learning from Oracle University, it provides tips inline as people navigate an app. “We find that sometimes people get ahead of us—they figure things out on their own,” says Gustafson. “It’s really cool when busy people don’t need to watch a video or sit in a training session to understand how to accomplish something. It’s a big cultural shift.”

Rice wants to avoid what one of Nemours’ chief nursing officers calls “death by a thousand IT cuts.” Employees are tech savvy, so an HCM system should be easy enough for them to just log in and use. “No one teaches me how to use my iPhone, and that’s kind of the goal, isn’t it?” he says. “Taking the friction out of our process is really important. If your systems are complicated, they become aggravation points for the people they’re meant to serve.”

Gustafson puts it this way: “Our job is to make things easier for our care providers to do their jobs.” Like Rice, she has put her own child’s health in the Nemours team’s capable hands. Her daughter was born with a hearing impairment and still visits a Nemours practice to receive follow-up care. When her daughter enters the workforce someday, she wants to be, you guessed it, a doctor, nurse, or someone else who helps people lead healthier lives.

Photograph: Courtesy of Nemours Children’s Health

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