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Created on 29.12.2023

Electronic invoices: how University Hospital Basel is integrating its providers

University Hospital Basel has opted to receive electronic invoices from its providers. In an interview about B2B e-bills, Head of Accounts Payable Etienne Barriopedro explains how the hospital got its providers on board with electronic invoicing.

University Hospital Basel is one of Switzerland’s leading medical centers and one of the biggest employers in the north-west of Switzerland. Around 8,000 employees from 84 different countries take care of the medical needs of over one million people. Established and efficient processes are important to guaranteeing quality for patients and employees – and not just in the wards, operating theatres or for medical research. Finances also require good workflows. The B2B e-bill is an example of this.

Etienne Barriopedro is Head of Accounts Payable at University Hospital Basel.

Expert interview on e-bills with Etienne Barriopedro from University Hospital Basel

University Hospital Basel introduced e-bills for provider invoices in 2004, with the aim of harnessing the potential of IT systematically and profitably. Etienne Barriopedro is Head of Accounts Payable at University Hospital Basel and explains in this interview why it’s so important to integrate providers and how the hospital is taking on this challenge. 

Providers play a particularly important role in the introduction of e-bills. How did University Hospital Basel approach this?

We introduced e-bills for our providers in small steps, not in one fell swoop. We integrated our highest-volume providers first so that we could quickly make the most of the benefits that e-billing provides. It was also important to ensure the quality of provider invoices, particularly when it came to entering the order numbers correctly or avoiding partial invoices.

The more providers that use e-billing, the more beneficial it is for all stakeholders. How did you get your providers to start switching to e-bills?

We consistently require our providers to use e-billing and have adapted our tendering conditions and general terms and conditions accordingly. E-billing is therefore a part of the contractual relationship. We inform our providers of the benefits that e-billing offers: an e-bill cannot be mislaid or lost, and the invoice status can be checked and traced at any time. Our aim is to process 80 percent of all order-related provider invoices as e-bills. Currently, we’re at around 65 percent.

Who at University Hospital Basel is responsible for integrating providers?

A central office with an overview of purchasing and accounts is carrying out this task. This office is responsible for keeping in touch with the providers, setting up contact between them and PostFinance as an e-bill provider and supporting them closely during testing. In turn, overall responsibility for integrating providers lies with the Head of Accounts Payable, who follows the clearly defined goals set by our Head of Finance.

Which criteria do you use to determine the order in which you integrate providers?

At the moment, we’re integrating providers based on the number of invoices. We’re also integrating providers that already have an interface with another hospital or company. Alternatively, we explicitly ask providers how feasible it is to switch to e-billing. PostFinance’s round tables are an important platform to find providers for whom e-billing is a possibility. This is where we talk to representatives from the same sector about networking opportunities between hospitals and providers.

How do you support your providers in the implementation of e-billing?

We outline our concerns in our cover letter and request that providers contact PostFinance. PostFinance has a technical support department that can help providers to implement the interface. After testing, we take the lead on handling test cases until go-live.

Which providers are easier to integrate, and for which is it more difficult?

That depends mainly on the type of e-invoicing – whether it’s e-bills or e-bill light, for example – and whether or not the provider supplies complete records with the required information, such as order numbers, delivery note numbers, VAT rates, etc.

What tips can you give to other companies who would also like to integrate their providers with e-billing?

A simple and effective onboarding process for the providers is the key to success. Initially, we had a checklist to help us get the required information from providers and ensure that we did not miss any important points. This process is now so well integrated that we no longer need the checklist. Onboarding has taken a great deal of effort, but it’s been worth it. Continued communication and motivation from all stakeholders has also been very important. A roadmap showing the status for each provider and their volumes is very helpful with this process.

What are the most important benefits of receiving e-bills for University Hospital Basel?

We use fewer materials, because we save on letter paper and envelopes. We also reduce the need for internal and external transport links, scanning and validation. We benefit from more optimized processes, as we can log invoices directly into our ERP system without any media disruptions. Turnaround time is significantly improved, as previous work stages such as internal transport of invoices or opening, scanning and validating paper or e-mail invoices are no longer necessary. Also affected is provider satisfaction. Thanks to quicker processing times, providers receive their money faster, and invoices can no longer go missing.

How easy or difficult is it to integrate e-bills into the ERP system?

Today’s market-established ERP solutions generally have an interface for e-billing as standard. However, parameters must be set individually in each case. As a result, integration isn’t usually an issue system-side. An important requirement, however, is that the company must have a functioning billing workflow that can be digitized.

What were the biggest challenges in introducing e-bills in relation to internal processes?

To ensure that we could benefit from automation to the greatest extent possible, we increased the number of order-related invoices ahead of time. 

Which departments were involved in the introduction of receiving e-bills?

Our Procurement, Accounts and IT departments, as well as PostFinance, were all involved and cooperated constructively with clearly defined responsibilities.

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