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Introduction

Healthcare systems are not only saving lives on a daily basis, but they are also consistently conducting research to save lives in the future. Both these day-to-day medical operations and the research functions are reliant on grant funding. 

In fact, healthcare systems receive a variety of grant types as well as funds from partnerships, making their grant management that much more complex. 

If managed properly, this funding can allow healthcare systems to do everything from maintaining the well-being of patients to investing in technology and research projects that will advance the medical science field. Many healthcare systems, however, span across a number of states and have few resources and are relying on legacy systems to manage the many and various grant funding awards that the healthcare system departments receive. 

To ensure your healthcare system is equipped to handle these extra levels of complexity, read on for best practices for managing your grant programs. 

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In fiscal year 2018 alone, the Prevention and Public Health Fund allocated more than $586 million of its $800 million budget to state and municipality healthcare systems. That fund is not the only way healthcare systems are receiving important grant dollars.

Compliance and Grant Dollars 

Since healthcare systems often receive a multitude of grant types, they have to comply with various regulations per grant type, including federal grant regulations. 

In recent years federal legislation has been very heavily trending towards results-based funding. Because of this, noncompliance, missed deadlines, and disorganized processes are usually to blame for lost drawdown for healthcare system initiatives. 

If expenditure reports are incomplete or inaccurate, or deadlines are missed, the grantor may withhold funds or the healthcare system themselves may have to withhold funds.

So what are some of the federal initiatives healthcare systems have to comply with during the grant lifecycle so they don’t potentially lose such a substantial amount of grant dollars?

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Uniform Grant Guidance (UGG)

“Aims to reduce the administrative burden on award recipients and, at the same time, guard against the risk of waste and misuse of Federal funds.” (grants.gov)

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Digital Accountability and Transparency (DATA) Act

“The nation’s first open data law. It requires the U.S. federal government to transform its spending information into open data.” (datacoalition.org)

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Treasury “Do Not Pay” Initiative

“The purpose of this order was to reduce improper payments by intensifying efforts to eliminate payment error, waste, fraud, and abuse in the major programs administered by the Federal Government, while continuing to ensure that Federal programs serve and provide access to their intended beneficiaries.” (fiscal.treasury.gov)

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Grant Reporting Efficiency and Assistance Transparency (GREAT) Act

“The proposed law will transform federal grant reporting from disconnected documents into open data by directing the executive branch to adopt a standardized data structure for the information grantees must report to agencies.” (datacoalition.org)

Challenges and Solutions to Healthcare System Grant Management 

After researching and understanding current data legislation, the next step to improving your healthcare system’s grant management is understanding why you may not be maximizing your drawdown as best as possible. Furthermore, why is your healthcare system losing out on impactful awards? 

Research and grant management software customer feedback have shown the key challenges healthcare systems face when it comes to managing grants are listed below.

Understanding what these challenges entail as well as potential solutions to these setbacks is the first step to standardizing your healthcare system’s grant management. 

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1. Lack of Transparency  

One healthcare system that uses grant management software, for instance, generates about $5 million in grant awards annually, yet only one or two team members actively work within their grant management. Not only does this mean potentially lost historical grant data if the healthcare system is tracking through paper and disparate spreadsheets, it also results in a lack of organization-wide transparency as to what’s happening with the system’s grants. 

Solution

Transparency leads to accuracy. This is especially important when only a few people are actively working with the grants. When the grant management process is more transparent, there is more oversight and, in turn, less mismanagement. 

As Michael Wood, former Executive Director of the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, stated, most of maintaining accurate reports is making sure your books and accounts are in order. 

Therefore, maintaining proper progress reports for now and the future is all about having a strong understanding of your reporting standards and building your record-keeping processes around those. 

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2. Lack of Centralization 

Many healthcare systems don’t operate out of just one location. In fact, one healthcare system that uses grant management software has locations in 21 states. The size of this system is not usual in the healthcare space, either. If such a widespread organization is using various processes and tools to manage grants, things are likely to fall through the cracks and they are likely unable to maximize the drawdown of funds. 

Solution

Acquire a centralized hub for your grants. Your organization should have one organized location for all grant, sub-recipient, and community partner information. 

This is especially helpful for dispersed healthcare systems. Instead of using disparate systems, consolidate your information in one system to keep everyone from your team to your sub-recipients on the same page.

Teamwork

3. Issues with Non-Compliance 

Healthcare systems manage more grant types than a lot of other sectors. That also means they must also comply with a larger variety of regulations than most. Specifically, the federal government is becoming more aware of the dollars it is allocating and is becoming more stringent on ensuring that recipients and sub-recipients manage these dollars appropriately. If healthcare systems aren’t complying with legislation, it could result in fees and loss of future funding. 

Solution

There are a number of solutions for recipient healthcare systems to ensure they maintain compliance. Organizations should always: 

4. Difficulty Managing Various Grant Types 

From federal and state funds to foundation grants to researched-based grants to private funding, the different funding sources healthcare institutions receive creates extra layers of complexity in the management process. Different funding sources means different reporting and tracking needs. Especially if a healthcare system is reliant on multi-year grants, it requires annual spending tracking. 

Solution

Since healthcare systems have a lot of variables to manage, it’s imperative they devise a grant management process that they can customize, whether through tools or otherwise

By customizing tracking and reporting through specific field types, it’s easier to provide each funder the information and data they need. 

Teamwork

5. Competition Between Administrative Work and Research  

10 Healthcare institutions are unique in the grants space because a good deal of funding may go towards research initiatives. Unfortunately, instead of spending the optimal amount of time conducting research, healthcare researchers often note they find themselves spending too much time on administrative work. 

Solution

According to feedback from users of grant management software, administration time can drop by 72 percent following the adoption of grant management software. 

By automating and bringing efficiency to many of the administrative elements of grant management, healthcare researchers can spend their time conducting important research initiatives. 

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Improving the Healthcare Sector’s Grant Management with Software  

Specifically, healthcare systems who have procured grant management software have seen an improvement in the following grant management practices: 

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Mindfulness of spending; Tracking grant parameters and not allocating money to items not outlined. 

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Significant decrease in administrative burden. 

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Maintain reports on both time and effort. 

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Provide all necessary team members access to data and have a system to monitor fiscal activity. 

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Track all grant activities (expenses and deadlines) in one centralized location; forgoing the use of spreadsheets. 

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Automatically comply with the varying regulations of multiple grant types.   

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Ability to track activities against goals.

Next Steps for Healthcare Grant Management Improvement

Once healthcare systems begin recognizing missteps and, in turn, start developing better grant management habits, they are likely to see more positive results from their grants. This includes better overall compliance, more organization-wide transparency, increased drawdown, more focus on achieving initiatives, and many other things. 

1. Evaluate what your grants goals are for the next year 

The best way to do this is to evaluate your historical data and reviewing information such as your past deliverables, spend, and outcomes. Internally auditing your grant history will help you figure out how to set and achieve your organization’s grant goals for the future

2. Pinpoint where your grant management processes are lacking efficiency and structure

Understand how funding is working in the healthcare space and how your processes may help or deter you and your recipients maximizing drawdown is one of the first steps. We compiled research and surveyed customers to help you better understand current legislation and technology trends in the grant management, and specifically healthcare, space 

3. Consider if procuring technology could streamline your grant management processes

Everything from the number and types of grants you manage to the tools you are currently utilizing will influence if software is right for your organization. Fill out our grant management software readiness to see if evaluating software options is the right next step for improving grant management