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Business alchemy Featured

1:07pm EDT June 28, 2005

Change is ever-present in business. From new technology to employee turnover to emerging competition, there is always something to keep entrepreneurs and owners on their toes. For Health Design Plus (HDP), a provider of self-funded health care plans for regional businesses, changes have given President and CEO Ruth Coleman the opportunity to turn a burden into a blessing.

When Coleman founded HDP in 1988, computers were virtually unheard of in business offices. As the company expanded its services, it developed systems and processes based on paper documents, and as its client base expanded, so did the amount of paperwork. By 2002, HDP was using computers in many areas but it was still processing several million paper claims documents each year.

Coleman realized that pushing papers was time-consuming and expensive, and it was preventing the company from complying with complex health care regulations. The system needed an overhaul.

HDP's five-system overhaul cost more than $1 million and forced the company to stop taking on new clients. But through attrition and employees who couldn't transition to the electronic environment, the company cut almost $1 million in salary expenses, and the temporary hold on new clients allowed it to build a solid foundation to support growth and new product development.

HDP continues to improve in efficiency, and has been able to gradually add new programs and products to its technology portfolio.

In addition, the company dropped from 100 percent of its claims processed on paper to just 4 percent.

This overhaul allows HDP to change with the region. As small companies grow and more mid-sized companies move to the area, HDP can accommodate them, staying ahead of competition capable only of handling smaller clients.

For Coleman and Health Designs Plus, adapting to change meant initial setbacks and hardship, but those changes produced improvements that ultimately made for a stronger, healthier company.

How to reach: www.hdplus.com