Like any business, financial operations are integral to the success of your research organization. However, many sites struggle to optimize their financial processes. As reported in Forte’s 2017 State of the Clinical Industry Report, invoicing to and tracking payments from sponsors recorded the second highest proportion of people reporting major pain across all research operations tasks, while maintaining positive cash flow recorded the fourth highest proportion. And this report is not isolated. According to the Society for Clinical Research Sites (SCRS), maintaining positive cash flow is a huge challenge for many sites, with 66% of sites reporting they have less than three months’ operating cash on hand.1
So, how does your site create and maintain an accurate and comprehensive financial outlook? Utilizing solutions like a clinical trial management system (CTMS) and a clinical research analytics system can help provide your team with the information and visibility you need to optimize your financial operations. While you may be accustomed to using these tools for research operations, they are also vital to managing the health of your financial operations. These solutions can help you:
- Identify which sponsors are paying you promptly
- Understand your outstanding balance
- Compare patterns in payments received over time
- Identify areas where internal processes for invoicing can be improved
Invoicing to and tracking payment from sponsors:
The burden of slow payments from sponsors has been a site pain point for many years. New data reveals the average payment takes more than four and a half months.2 This delay in timely payments was confirmed (with an average of 140 days) in a recent analysis conducted by Forte for the MAGI Award for Excellence in Site Payments. In addition to the analysis, when surveyed about the causes of payment delays, sites cited contracting issues, approval hurdles, invoicing errors and more.
To tackle these invoicing challenges, look for a system that can provide an easily accessible, deep dive view into your financial operations. By utilizing financial operation analytics, your organization can begin to spot where your sponsor invoice may require approval from multiple stakeholders or areas within the process that have historically been delayed, so you can prepare for stoppages and dig into the root cause of the approval lag. A Business Operations tool like Forte Insights features a Sponsor Invoicing Dashboard, that captures the state of your invoices to help you assess and reduce payment turnaround time.
Maintaining Positive Cash Flow:
When you gain visibility into your invoicing process, you are better able to maintain a positive cash flow. Though there are many elements to managing your cash flow, real-time reporting can help answer questions such as:
- How much money are we waiting for and how long has it been outstanding?
- What financial activity has happened so far per protocol and what is still outstanding?
- How much payment have I received and what types of invoices have I been paid for?
These questions and their insights will help point your organization towards the bottlenecks in your operations and identify sponsors that may have a history of payment delays.
Facilitating Sponsor Conversations:
Lastly, analytics surrounding your financial operations can provide you with the information you need to approach future sponsor negotiations. To help you advocate for a study budget, negotiate a payment timeline and ensure timely payment, come to the table with historical data that can back up your requests. By using data to facilitate the conversation, you can empower your site’s financial operations and increase the success of your trials from the beginning.
All in all, it is important to remember that reporting and analytics are not exclusive to your research operations but should be applied to all areas of your business, especially financials. To learn more about solutions that provide a holistic view of your operations and invoicing history, explore Forte Insights, a solution that leverages visual analytics to provide comprehensive & actionable information that allow you to make informed decisions about your clinical research operations.
- Society for Clinical Research Sites (SCRS), Site Payment (White Paper), October 2016
- Journal of Clinical Research Best Practices, Sponsor Payments to Sites: A New Award to Recognize Timely Payment, June 2017