"It's perfect for any process where you need to demonstrate regulatory compliance," Coulter said, adding that it combines multiple functions provided by software like Microsoft Excel and enterprise resource planning technology into one platform. "It has a full record of everything that occurred on an isolated and protected database that is regularly audited."
As one example, the automation software can alert providers when a patient hasn't received a meal, which could ultimately improve outcomes, Coulter said. Ascension's Ministry Service Center has created 10% year-over-year cost reduction for more than five years, with automation playing a central role, the company said.
Ascension has been using the system at its more than 150-hospital network for about six years and already has a handful of clients. The relatively new revenue stream aims to capitalize on a projected $2.4 billion process automation market come 2021.
The subsidiary is part of Ascension's strategic shift to develop scalable business lines related to supply chain, revenue-cycle management, venture capital, drug manufacturing and other sectors. The nation's largest Catholic health system continues to grow its "solutions" segment, which has posted $6 billion in revenue since 2012, Ascension said.
The transition marks a notable departure from a hospital-focused delivery system to one that provides more outpatient care and commercializes a growing portfolio of ancillary services.
"Our solutions division is generating return on investment, reducing costs on services and supplies, and providing additional revenue as we offer the services to other companies," said Anthony Tersigni, CEO of Ascension.
The automation isn't expected to replace any jobs, Tersigni added.
Providers have struggled to replace tedious manual tasks related to hiring, billing and contracting. The healthcare industry has lagged behind other sectors that have streamlined these processes.
Disorganization and administrative burden can compromise care quality and cost health systems precious time and resources as well as hefty penalties amounting to millions of dollars a year.
Coulter said Agilify is providing operational efficiencies, incremental cost savings and boosting productivity across Ascension while shielding it from liability.
"Previously, things would have to sit in the queue for a week. What would take 14 days can now be returned to you in minutes," Coulter said. "You definitely change the experience."
Ascension hopes its new direction will generate returns, but operating earnings have dragged in recent reports.
Ascension reported operating income of $282 million on operating revenue of $17.09 billion through the first nine months of its fiscal 2018, down from operating income of $749 million on operating revenue of $17.15 billion in the prior-year period.
The health system was buoyed by non-operating gains of $1.52 billion through the first nine months of 2018, up 68% from $903 million. That boosted its net income to $1.68 billion, up 8.4% from $1.55 billion.
The organization's operating results reflect its investment in population health management and operational transition amid anticipated declines in volume, rising drug costs, increased uncompensated care and a rising share of Medicaid beneficiaries, Ascension said in its third-quarter report.
Ascension's major restructuring is expected to save the organization $400 million in fiscal 2018 and $61 million in 2019. As the health system aims to reduce its hospital footprint and trim its leadership structure, it will look for partners that provide care in other settings, such as urgent care, skilled nursing, home health and telemedicine.