For many of our customers the Animal Billing module, along with the supporting data provided by Census, is the most critical module in the Elements suite. It allows the PIs to be billed their monthly charges for use of the facility and the services provided. For the PIs themselves, how their precious grant funds are spent is of great interest, and we know that in many institutions the setting of per diem rates is a tricky balancing act that can become a political issue.
Within Elements we try to help with these thorny issues. The Cost Accounting module can help set your per diem rates to be sure you maintain a break-even operation…but that’s a topic for another day. The My Bills dashboard also helps, by allowing PIs and their teams to view and drill down into their monthly bills without having to call the billing admin. Whether you are a PI or the billing admin, it’s helpful to understand a little about the billing transactions that are managed within Elements and go to make up each monthly bill.
The monthly bills are essentially just sets of transactions gathered from the Elements data and grouped by Staff Account. When the billing admin generates the monthly bills, Elements takes a journey through the Animal Orders receipt data, the Census data, Veterinary Management data and any directly entered transactions within the billing module. Thus we consider that Elements deals with 4 types of transactions;
Animal Purchase Transactions
These reflect the cost of animals purchased from vendors that are billed back to the PI. Any receipt that is in a Reconciled state will be included in the bill. The actual amount may come from the Vendor Catalog feature, or be manually entered on the receipt. The transaction is split by animal gender, so if you ordered males and females in the same delivery, you’ll actually get 2 transactions.
Providing accurate per diem charges is a very important feature of Elements for many of our customers. These transactions are based on a fairly complex calculation that involves generating the number of “caredays” for each “census combination” (based on location, cage type, protocol and staff account). The careday calculation takes into account cages that arrive, leave or move, as well as any “account transfers” that may have taken place.
To add to the complexity, a cage may contain multiple animals that are on different staff accounts (eg. to avoid single housing of NHPs). You can also, within Elements, calculate per diems based on animals, instead of, or in addition to, the traditional cage based per diems.
Vet Management Tasks
If you are using the VM module and are billing for technical services, you can capture these costs per task as the services are recorded in VM. These are “Task” transactions and are very simple to input as a task is completed.
Within the Animal Billing module it is possible to create 4 “subtypes” of Manual transaction.
- Manual Purchases would be used when a PI requests the facility to purchase something and bill them back – this might be special diet or bedding or even a piece of equipment.
- Manual Service transactions can be used when the PI requests a service that is billable. If you do not capture this via the VM module, it can be entered as a manual transaction instead.
- Manual per diems can be used to capture the costs for per diems for locations that are not covered by the normal census processes. This might be used for satellite facilities or field study locations that you do not wish to include in normal census activities.
- Journal corrections allow you to either credit or bill PIs for any oversights or errors that are discovered.
Each of these transaction types can be reviewed by the PIs admin staff from the My Bills dashboard, helping to ensure accurate billing and happy researchers!