How Southwest Health Cut Compliance Costs and Reinforced Revenue with symplr



Southwest Health is a DNV-accredited, standalone critical access hospital (CAH) in Cortez, Colorado, committed to excellence. The unique community of about 40,000 people that Southwest serves includes a nearby Indian reservation. And with the nearest tertiary hospital a four-hour drive away, patients rely on the hospital’s ED and inpatient ICU. Its dedicated medical staff consists primarily of family practitioners, surgeons, and OB-GYN providers. As a Federally Qualified Health Center, most of Southwest Health’s payments come from Medicare and Medicaid.


  • Decrease expenses

  • Shore up 340B compliance and revenue

  • Encourage events reporting

  • More easily pull quality data and sync with contracts and documents


symplr Compliance delivered a customized platform that now handles all of the organization's compliance needs, including:

  • Issues and events reporting

  • Contract and relationship management

  • Risk assessment management

  • Document and policy management

“[symplr] can build me any report that I need, but I like to build my own. I can build whatever I want, and it doesn’t cost me any more, aside from my time. You don’t always see that. Many [vendors] add more costs as you add more pieces.”

- Chief Nursing Officer Karen Labonte, MSN, RN


Southwest's symplr experience

In 2018, Southwest Health determined that the software used for its compliance and risk programs was getting more expensive, yet failing to keep up with its needs. That’s when the organization found the perfect fit with symplr, said Chief Nursing Officer Karen Labonte, MSN, RN. “When we made the switch to symplr Compliance, it was an easy decision because it wasn’t a canned platform; it was intuitive, and we could build it to our specifications. If the other, more expensive vendor could have built what we needed, we would have paid more and gone that route,” Labonte said.

She described the conversion as being easy from the start. “[Implementation] was easy enough that [internally] I was able to do most of it on my own. It’s not a canned product so you do have to decide how you want it to look and how you want it built, and that takes some work upfront. I researched to see what categories and questions I wanted to build in. Building it was easy and I was trained very well on how to build workflows. "If it was a canned product, you would not get as much maneuverability out of it as you can when you make it what you want.”

Training others to use symplr Compliance was easy, too. Labonte said, “Not only can you build it to accommodate your needs, but it’s user friendly for the frontline staff, with not a lot of training required. And on the back side, with templates, directors find it easy to use because it populates their dashboard. They can go in and conduct investigations and follow-up action plans.”


"I'm looking for trends"

Success in improving healthcare quality is all about data: gathering it, making it accessible, analyzing and reporting on it. “In Quality, I’m looking for trends. [symplr Compliance] gives me the ability to pull data out, report it, find the important trends, and make impactful changes based on that data,” according to Labonte.

In a busy CAH where directors wear many hats, data collection and organization can be difficult. Southwest overcame those problems using symplr Compliance as a system that all parties would find easy to use, thereby increasing participation.

According to Labonte, in time savings alone for Quality, symplr Compliance has fully eliminated the need for manual follow-up with directors to find the status or results of investigations. “Because it shows data in real-time on the dashboard, there’s no data-chasing. Reminders are sent,” she said.


Superior reporting 

Southwest’s previous compliance software vendor didn’t offer a convenient and user-friendly reporting mechanism. That’s problematic, because reducing preventable harm requires a structured approach that values and makes reporting worthwhile. In other words, why collect the data if you don’t execute on the findings?

Using symplr Compliance’s Issue and Action Management, Southwest now manages all activities, events, issues, and investigations related to its compliance program, using one central solution. The Quality team elevates the data into real-time, actionable information using symplr’s embedded IBM Cognos reporting. Meanwhile, Southwest’s Chief Clinical Officer uses the platform to collect and track patient complaints/grievances to foster improvements.

According to Labonte, self-service and flexibility in reporting make symplr Compliance a superior product. “[symplr] can build me any report that I need, but I like to build my own. I can build whatever I want, and it doesn’t cost me any more, aside from my time. You don’t always see that. Many [vendors] add more costs as you add more pieces.”

Most recently, she used symplr’s platform to build forms for “employee out sick” and “employee return to work.” Charge nurses and directors can use the forms to clear staff to come back to work, further strengthening DNV compliance efforts.


A safeguard against 340B-related penalties

While Labonte’s Quality team uses symplr Compliance for event reporting, peer review/chart review, and more, the Pharmacy uses it to comply with the 340B program, a pharmacy rebate program that is vital to helping covered entities to stretch scarce federal resources. Specifically, 340B helps Southwest reach more patients, and provide more comprehensive services.

Labonte explained, “Financial viability is essential for a small hospital that’s not affiliated with another tertiary facility. Because payments continue to dwindle, that’s a very important thing to focus on. Regarding 340B, that’s where we see a huge amount of growth and productivity and financial gain.” She cited financial risks associated with the rules of 340B and the importance of not missing any steps or data in complying with 340B. “If you miss one piece of [data], there is a potential for lost revenue or financial penalty, and the risk of having to pay back a lot.”

Easier compliance data access and reporting, elevation of trends for decision making, and shoring up financial risk related to its 340B program were all reasons the organization found the perfect fit in symplr Compliance, Labonte said.

“I feel like symplr Compliance is a fantastic product and better fit for what we need. It was much more intuitive and user friendly, and the data we get out of it is just so much better. [The benefits] were quite a few things, and certainly the cost savings because we can bundle and get more products. But the one thing I have found that trumps everything else is the customer service that we get. [symplr]
is always right on top of things, and if I have a question, it gets answered so timely. It’s almost like they’re looking out for you.”


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