The authors look at how IT solutions help healthcare organizations deliver quality care, improve patient safety and control rising cost.

To remain competitive healthcare organizations must deliver quality care, improve productivity and efficiency and maintain cost. Andy David, HBA and Cynthia Mar, MBA look at solutions to meet these needs.

Health care organizations today face complex challenges. To remain sustainable, a health care organization must constantly seek to deliver quality care and improve outcomes. At the same time, they must increase efficiency, contain rising costs and expenses and sustain employee productivity. Given these circumstances, health care organizations must streamline and integrate processes both horizontally (across the health care supply chain, extending from physician and hospital into the community) and vertically (from management and administration to patient care).

Most importantly, better visibility – both clinical and managerial – is required in order to gain a clear understanding of how a hospital is operating and where it can improve. Technology can aid in the achievement by enabling improved efficiency and effectiveness across administrative and clinical processes, combined with real-time insight. In this way, costs can be reduced and time with patients can be increased.

Administration & Management

The health care industry is known for its constant innovation. The rate at which pioneering drugs and techniques are invented continues to accelerate, catalyzed by advances in knowledge and technology. However, to successfully continue, health care organizations will need to match this clinical innovation with administration and management process transformation to address key trends: namely, rising costs, skill shortages, demand for visibility and transparency, proof of patient safety, and improved outcomes in quality of care. Whether publicly or privately funded, all health care organizations are under pressure to contain costs so that clinical care is affordable and available to all. Faced with this situation, health care organizations must look at how they can streamline and standardize both administrative and clinical processes so that these processes become more efficient and replicable to reduce cost and increase quality.

There is a shortage of skills in the health care industry, with an increasing proportion of health care workers approaching retirement age. Demands on the health care system are increasing as the population ages. To maintain levels of service, health care organizations must attract and retain the highest-quality staff. Doing so requires first-rate human capital management practices, as well as updated technology to manage, motivate and reward staff.

Quality & Safety

With anytime access to information, health care consumers are better informed, and therefore expect top quality treatment. Driven by their experiences in other areas of life, patients now expect to be treated as customers. They expect faster responses, quicker attention, improved collaboration between health care organizations and ease of communication with their health care providers. To meet expectations, health care providers must become more performance-driven, measuring and monitoring their processes so they can establish a culture of continual improvement. This requires transparency, including publishing results so patients can see how a provider or organization is performing in order to establish trust. At the same time, health care organizations should continuously appraise how they deliver care, taking advantage of new technologies.

Patient safety will always be critically important, and with the vast volume of drugs and treatments available today, it is absolutely vital that health care providers keep abreast of the most updated prescribing information in order to safeguard patients’ health. In addition, monitoring treatment success rates is becoming an essential factor in raising standards of care and reducing costs, by identifying the best practices and the most effective clinical pathways. Technology solutions play an important role in helping health care organizations support these trends and issues, supplying comprehensive and sophisticated functionality across the health care ecosystem.

Solutions for Financials, Management & Administration

Health care organizations worldwide need a complete financial management solution designed to provide end-to-end support to meet the needs of the most complex health care organizations. This allows the users to streamline processes, lower costs and translates into a heightened ability to identify the clinical processes that drive costs, understand where revenues come from, and detect and analyze deviations more rapidly, allowing for the delivery of cost-effective care.

Using this technology means that costs are managed inherently, as there is complete visibility of inventory and orders to avoid unnecessary replenishment and waste. This increases patient safety by using patient and drug matching to reduce medication errors. For example, an electronic order is sent to the pharmacy, where drugs are in individual sleeves, each with an RFID tag. The drugs are packaged and delivered to the ward where, at the bedside, the nurse reads the patient’s RFID tag and compares it to the drug’s RFID tag.

Analytic solutions provide the tools and applications health care organizations need to connect people, information and businesses across business networks in order to optimize performance. Department-relevant metrics can be cascaded down the organization to increase accountability, while dashboards based on individual roles help employees quickly identify deviations from the plan and proactively take action. Analytic applications help organizations gain actionable insight into business performance, and empower employees to continually improve outcomes.

The ability to record every aspect of treatment, both inside and outside the hospital, results in the maintenance of a complete, accurate and confidential central record. This integration increases patient throughput and admission staff efficiency, resulting in the ability to make appointments and plan other resources for highest profitability and utilization of wards and service facilities. Linking this processing also results in fewer coding and billing inquiries to health care personnel, improved accuracy of payments, reduced costs for integration with accounting and financial management, and increased accuracy and efficiency between front-end and back-end processes.

 For clinical care, a central element for planning, documentation, management and communication helps health professionals economically deliver high-level care.

Mobile Solutions

Bringing mobile technologies to health care – especially to clinical care operations – can be an innovative way to improve patient care, reduce complexity, improve efficiency and empower health care decision-makers with actionable insight at the patient bedside. However, deploying mobile technologies to health care providers cannot be done without careful planning and consideration. To effectively secure, manage and control mobile devices and access data, health care organizations must deploy appropriate enabling technologies beyond the network infrastructure.

Deploying well-designed, enterprise-class mobile solutions for clinical care can deliver significant benefits. For example, mobile health care Apps can allow care providers to determine the best treatment and care, anywhere and anytime. Mobile patient care tools can enable care providers to dramatically accelerate decision-making, enhance treatment quality and streamline workloads. By delivering critical information to the point of care, mobile care tools enable care providers to instantly receive and respond to vital patient information, monitor health status or update care plans, and support peer-to-peer communication and collaboration. Complexity is reduced through intuitive, context-aware mobile Apps, which can simplify information entry and retrieval, making it easier for clinical users to quickly and efficiently get the information they need to make patient care decisions. In addition, delivering role-based analytic data to mobile devices gives decision-makers the information they need – in real time and at their fingertips – to help providers understand root causes and devise course corrections more quickly.

Connected Care Solutions

There has been a focus on the electronic capture of data, especially with the implementation of electronic medical records. Personal health records (PHRs) have been developed that enable patients to gather their own health care data, which can then be used to better treat illnesses. PHRs in isolation, however, create another island of patient information that may not be shared with all health care providers. The challenge with these multiple systems is that they are often neither integrated nor interoperable, resulting in isolated patient data in a variety of systems. Health information exchanges (HIEs) are designed to address this lack of continuity, facilitating data sharing across the variety of touch points where the patient may come into contact with the health care system.

Medical advancements such as genetic testing and molecular diagnostics are fueling a greater focus on personalized medicine. A more predictive approach to treatment results in better preventive programs. The new standard will involve identifying and averting medical problems well before they arise. The result is healthier patients and the potential for significantly lower health care costs. Individualized preemptive health programs can help clients avoid illness, while insurers can limit the need for expensive and sometimes unnecessary treatments.

Full genome sequencing provides raw data on six billion letters of an individual’s DNA. The emphasis is now on genome interpretation and the mining of that data for clinically actionable information. Researchers are comparing genome sequences among large sample groups to better understand target genetic markers. This could accelerate the development of treatments for diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s. This can translate into faster and more accurate diagnoses, better patient care with fewer doctor visits, and expedited pharmaceutical discoveries with lower development costs.

Care, Anywhere

To enable sustainable health care and support the aging population, care must move into the community and to the home, and the right care must be given in the right setting. With technology, health care providers, patients and their families can all be connected through medical monitoring software and mobile devices to better manage a patient’s health with individualized treatment plans. This type of health care is more proactive, because a blood pressure reading, for example, can be automatically entered into a patient’s electronic chart with no human intervention. This automatic, real-time information enhances decision-making based on real-time measurements, improving patient safety.

This collaborative approach to health care, which also involves family and friends for support, can reduce health care costs through earlier identification of problems, which can accelerate response times, reduce errors, enhance efficiency and minimize unnecessary doctor visits and hospital admissions. The involvement of family and friends and caregivers following personalized care plans and personalized learning also better promotes long-term behavior change.

Conclusion

At a time when the pressure is increasing to deliver more with less, health care organizations must put in place integrated, cost-effective processes on both the administrative and clinical sides of their business to be successful. Health care organizations have an opportunity to achieve an integrated view of real-time, relevant information to better manage and continuously improve patient care, at the bedside and in the community. By doing so, these organizations will not only drive greater efficiency and, as a result, lower costs, but they will also improve the effectiveness of treatment, resulting in the highest quality patient care, anywhere and anytime.

About the Authors

Andy David, HBA is responsible for growing the SAP brand in health care covering public and private hospitals and associated health care organizations in Asia Pacific and Japan (APJ). His key mandate is to focus as customer advocate, helping healthcare organizations in APJ achieve greater operational and financial excellence, optimize resources and processes, and improve patient outcomes while effectively managing risks, thus achieving policy and business outcomes and supporting customers to realize the value from their investment. Andy David has worked in the Asia Pacific Region for over 16 years and with 24 years’ experience in the IT sector, in APJ and Europe. A graduate from Brighton University, Andy holds an Honours Degree in Business Studies.

Cynthia Mar, MBA has been transforming healthcare for 20 years and is currently responsible for solution marketing globally for Healthcare at SAP. Prior to joining SAP, Cynthia was a senior manager at Deloitte Consulting, successfully leading clinical transformations for their Healthcare and Life Sciences clients. She has worked with technology in both the inpatient and outpatient settings and has been involved with implementations from patient access, to revenue cycle, to order entry and clinical documentation, to departmental implementation of lab or surgery systems.