Ascension’s shared services subsidiary is spinning out a new venture called Agilify, a unit targeting healthcare process automation.
Ministry Service Center has already saved the biggest non-profit hospital chain about 10% in year-over-year costs over five years through the service, Ascension said in a statement.
The robotic process automation field is forecasted to take off in the coming years. Estimates vary but Ascension said the field is expected to grow to $2.4 billion market by 2021.
In the face of lower volumes and higher expenses, Ascension is in restructuring mode, hinting that it will move the business away from strictly a hospital focus.
For the first nine months of fiscal year 2018, the 151-hospital system reported drops in operating income.
Ascension ceased potential merger discussions with Providence St. Joseph Health in March, which would have created the largest hospital operator in the country. It fizzled out as Ascension President and CEO Anthony Tersigni hinted at a new structure strategy (and sold a medical center in Connecticut).
This restructuring includes investments in outpatient partnerships, leadership cuts and stronger emphasis on automation, outpatient access points and telemedicine.
Agilify is likely just one offshoot of this new strategy.
Another is the recent effort between Ascension and other systems including Intermountain Healthcare and the Department of Veterans Affairs, to form a nonprofit generic drug company. The goal is to combat high prices and habitual shortages — essentially cutting out the supply chain middleman.
The systemic overhaul is expected to save Ascension $400 million in fiscal year 2018 and $61 million in fiscal year 2019.
The new direction comes amid industry's turn towards smaller, regional-focused systems and increased technological innovation.