How an In-House Consulting Team Saved $3 Million in 9 Months

Philip Betbeze, for HealthLeaders Media , September 9, 2011

One of the old (but funny) jokes about consultants goes something like this: a consultant borrows your watch so that he can tell you what time it is.

There's a lot of wisdom in that saying, especially to Annette Walker, who, truth be told, is married to a consultant. It's a condescending joke, undoubtedly first told by a cynic, but it means that you essentially hire a consultant to tell you something you already know, or should know.

Walker and her colleagues at St. Joseph Health System in Orange, CA, have taken the old joke to heart.

"To some extent, every consultant relies on your internal knowledge," explained Walker, St. Joseph's senior vice president of strategic services. "And they have to repackage it and turn it around and give it back to you."

You could say that Walker and her team have "insourced" that concept. Essentially, St. Joseph's strategic services team, started two years ago from scratch, serves as a consulting group available to any clinical or administrative team in the healthcare system. But competition for their expertise is fierce, says Walker. That's the way it's supposed to be.

In part, the health system's senior executives are owed this service, because each senior executive has donated at least one member of his or her team to serve in the group.

"It was a challenge to get people to give up their right-hand person," Walker says. "The CEO had to do some convincing."

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