HPS offers “one statement, one payment, and one place to call” for the consumer to access all of their providers’ claim data and payment options.
How an agile, global infrastructure helps one healthcare company scale
In the healthcare industry, there is no room for error. Reliability and compliance are not just check boxes — they’re the core of the business.
At Health Payment Systems (HPS) in Milwaukee, those needs were keenly felt. HPS, which simplifies healthcare billing by giving consumers a single statement for all their in-network claims, has grown just under 200% in 5 years. As they began to strategically address their scale requirements, the management team kept in mind the core principle founder Jim Brindley built HPS around:“There has to be a better way.”
This is when the team took a good look at its infrastructure. The few cabinets of servers had been set up when the company was much smaller and far more centralized. It wasn’t equipped to handle a growing staff located across the globe or the sophisticated Disaster Recovery plan HPS needed. Most importantly, it wasn’t nimble enough to scale along with the company.
Simplifying something as complex as healthcare billing requires an agile company and a global workforce that can quickly respond to shifts in the industry.
“When we say HPS needs to be agile, we aren’t specifically talking about the software development process. We’re talking about a company whose operations and culture are based squarely on agile principles,” says HPS Chief Operating Officer Terry Rowinski.
To help HPS tackle this business challenge, SCTG worked on delivering an infrastructure that could be as swift and flexible as the company needed to be.
Here’s how Terry and his team prepared HPS to scale rapidly:
3 steps to scalability: HPS’ approach to infrastructure
Step one: Create an accessible, scalable, reliable, secure and compliant infrastructure
Infrastructure became the core catalyst for switching to an agile approach at HPS. Because the data and applications were at the center of the HPS business, creating a global, agile infrastructure could radiate through the company, triggering a shift to the global, agile approach necessary to scale.
“Everything has to work right the first time. There are no reset buttons.”
With HPS, the infrastructure requirements are clear. Everything has to be accessible to a workforce all over the world. The infrastructure has to be scalable, since the company grows by leaps when it adds large healthcare networks and accountable care organizations (ACOs). It has to be reliable because HPS is processing payments. It also has to be secure and compliant, because HPS transmits HIPAA-protected data. There’s no wiggle room. Each requirement was and remains mission-critical to the success of HPS.
“From the jump, the entire SCTG team recognized that we wanted a business partner, not just a technology provider. We wanted someone who not only understood the ‘ilities’ we need to operate our business — accessibility, scalability, and reliability — but someone who also recognized the trust our payers, providers, and customers put in us, and took that trust to heart in the same way we do.”
We approached Terry and his team at HPS with an immense amount of questions and a lot of checking and cross-checking to make sure we created an airtight Private Cloud. We also built out a Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery plan, setting them up with a failover site in our Ashburn, Virginia location. HPS can failover to our Virginia location and be back up and fully operational within a few hours.
“We are experts in healthcare payment and billing processes. We are not experts in architecting, deploying, managing, scaling and supporting mission-critical IT infrastructure. This is where we turned to SCTG. They were intimately familiar with our challenges and opportunities.”
Step two: Enable collaboration and execution across a globally distributed workforce
A simple connectivity issue at 3 p.m. isn’t so innocuous when it’s also happening to someone starting their workday on the other side of the world. To get the best talent, HPS knew they had to think globally. They needed an infrastructure that worked everywhere, all of the time.
“Finding the right people with the skills, aptitude and interest in working with leading-edge technologies is a significant challenge. Keeping them is an entirely different — and equally important — challenge. In order to build the team we knew we needed to succeed, we looked around the world to find the best possible talent, wherever it may be. We knew a widely distributed workforce, working around the clock, was going to be paramount to our success. Empowering them with the collaboration and orchestration tools necessary to execute from wherever they are, in whatever time zone they’re working, was critical.”
A globally accessible and reliable infrastructure is the foundation that enables HPS to grow. Collaboration is critical — and that doesn’t just mean chatting in Slack. Everyone needs to be working together to solve problems, then executing those solutions, everywhere, all the time.
“Without the ability to collaborate in real-time across the entire company, utilizing all of our internal- and external-facing systems, we wouldn’t be able to keep pace with this industry.”
Step three: Establish 3-week project cycles for all HPS projects
Ready to put the speed of its infrastructure to the test, HPS executed on the final element of its push to an agile workflow — breaking all of its work down to three-week sprints. The company had seen how effective time-boxed work could be on its technical projects, and decided to apply the same focused thinking to all of its projects.
“In order to keep pace with the healthcare industry, and evolve our business, we implemented three-week cycles for all HPS projects. We chose three weeks as the cycle because it provided a complete extra week for the in-depth testing of all processes and technologies — a critical requirement for our business and our industry. At first, this was as much of a culture shock as you’d expect. However, over a very short period of time, probably six months, the entire organization came to embrace the clarity and consistency with which we were operating. What was also amazing is that the quality of work across the entire organization dramatically increased. The ability to focus and execute on clearly defined objectives made everyone’s lives easier while improving our ability to operate the business.”
“With SCTG, HPS has now put in place the foundation, a true technology backbone, which will evolve in 2019 and beyond to both scale with the growth of our business while delivering uncompromised availability at a leveraged cost.”
COO, Health Payment Systems
How HPS prepares its infrastructure for what’s next
Delivering a bespoke Private Cloud isn’t the finish line, it’s the starting point. Instead of handing off the infrastructure and waving on our way out the door, we will continue to find ways to make it better. This is when we begin regular failover testing, start understanding scale, and find improvements for global connectivity.
Now that we’ve set HPS up with an infrastructure that can handle its needs, we’re working every day to optimize the systems to better handle current and future tasks.
And we have to. HPS is on track to grow double in size in the next few years.