For many healthcare providers, the events surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic made what had been a slow and steady digital transformation suddenly an overnight project.
Now, the pandemic may have slowed, but the digital initiatives have only picked up steam. According to a survey by Deloitte, 88 percent of health systems are investing in digital projects related to the patient experience; 80 percent, IT/digital/cyber; and 68 percent, clinical care delivery.
Their Legal Departments will be no exception – and across the healthcare industry, many in-house teams are being held to new standards of reporting and efficiency.
“This has been happening more and more: The fact that ‘The Law Department may do things a little bit differently’ just doesn’t hold water anymore in terms of justification,” said Scott Rosenberg, Managing Director and Corporate Counsel at Unbiased Consulting, LLC. “For things like process improvement, they’re asked to improve their process, the same as any other group.”
Rosenberg was one of three panelists at Xakia’s September 2022 webinar, LegalTech in the Health Industry. Joining him were MaLiz Denk, Chief Risk Officer and Deputy General Counsel at Children’s Mercy Kansas City, and Megan Isaacson, Associate Director for Legal Operations at Syneos Health. The three discussed the new pressures facing in-house legal teams….and how modern matter management can help.
Denk described the impact to her legal team’s workload started by COVID-19 – and sustained by economic challenges.
“We’ve had to go through this really unprecedented time of doing all the business as usual stuff, plus these really unique issues,” she said. “So on top of our normal work, trying to navigate through all those pandemic-related issues and workplace safety issues.
“And the supply chain, they say, went from the basement to the C-suite during the pandemic. So the way in which the supply chain is engaging with the enterprise is very different, and all that’s new, and our old work didn’t go away.”
Isaacson agreed, adding that her team also saw an increase in employment issues, especially regarding recruitment, retention, and vaccine mandates.
Complicating all of this: a sudden shift to remote operations. As Rosenberg noted, the pandemic forced many Legal Departments to reimagine legal intake: “The days of sort of ‘drive-by’ requests for legal service have gone by the wayside. Most Law Departments are looking for a more structured way of taking in requests and assigning work, particularly when the members of the Legal Department aren’t around to receive those requests.”
For Syneos Health, digital transformation in the in-house Legal Department started with a simple realization: their contract process wasn’t working.
Syneos had set up a dedicated mailbox to receive requests for new contracts or review of existing agreements. The in-house legal team took turns monitoring the mailbox, but despite good intentions, this approach was problematic.
“Essentially it was a black hole,” Isaacson said. “Folks would forward emails out of the inbox, then there was no way to track completion or status or follow-up.”
After other business units voiced dissatisfaction, Isaacson said the team had to “eat a little bit of humble pie”: “We had to own up and say ‘you’re right, we don’t know what happened to your request."
The Legal Department apologized and promised to fix it, then set out to fully understand the problem before applying a solution.
The in-house Syneos team knew it needed:
- Visibility by matter, from the request stage through completion
- Visibility by individual, so the team could monitor workload and capacity
- Automatic reporting, so it could provide meaningful data to leadership
“We did not have the ability to provide our GC or executive team with any real hard numbers other than ‘We received 100 emails this week,’” she said. “We don’t know if they are new requests. We don’t know if they were follow-ups. We don’t know if they are from our own team members.
“We needed visibility across the board.”
After studying this initial pain point – the shared mailbox – Syneos determined it needed to take its Intake system digital. After research into LegalTech options, the team chose Xakia for its ability to meet the three needs it outlined. For the in-house legal team, Xakia would provide full visibility into the workload, along with automated legal analytics and reports; for the business clients, Xakia’s Legal Intake function would bring much-needed structure into what had been a frustrating “black hole.”
While change is never easy, Isaacson said business clients were responsive to the Legal Department’s messaging: “The shared mailbox is not working. We own that, we’re acknowledging that, and here’s how we’re going to fix it."
“The by-product of that is going to be visibility for you. It’s going to be increased turnaround times because we’re able to track and manage workload better, and you will know where [your request] is at any given time because you’ve been assigned a number and a matter manager and so on.”
Indeed, Isaacson reports that turnaround times have decreased, as the new Legal Intake portal asks for critical information at the time of request, cutting down on back-and-forth communication.
“We created consistency from Intake tickets, so our attorneys can hit the ground running,” she said.
Watch the webinar to find out more
Unlock ideas that could revitalize the way your in-house legal team operates by watching the LegalTech in the Health Industry Webinar. Regardless of the industry you're in, our webinar can be a source of value.