(HealthTech Wire / Interview) - In order to meet the requirements of modern-day health care, hospitals need standardized IT solutions and optimized processes. Hospitals can obtain the necessary information by individually analyzing the areas in which processes are deficient. Processes can be examined based on indication-related or generic observations, depending on the hospital and the type of care. According to Ralf Thomas, head of Healthcare Consulting at Siemens Healthcare Germany, this helps to identify potential cost savings.

How has hospital demand for IT consulting services changed over recent years?

For hospitals it has always been important to receive good consultancy. However, they are often hesitant about it. Many department heads know that they should invest in consulting services, but hesitate to take the final step. As providers, we offer to make it easier for the customer. Our dialogue with them aims to show that hospitals can achieve a good return on investment.

Is an IT provider such as Siemens really in the right position to be advising hospitals?

Naturally, there are customers who are wary of a conflict of interests. But our view is a different one: We take the consulting services that other providers offer a step further. As IT providers we frequently deal with hospitals who encounter difficulties implementing the recommendations of other consultants. And as an IT company experienced in implementing solutions we have a clear advantage. It is important to maintain credibility by making a clear distinction between consulting services and our IT business. As a matter of principle we initially leave our IT products out of the equation, which allows us to support customers with different IT products.

In which areas can hospitals particularly benefit from advice?

From our point of view there are two areas. Consulting makes sense in areas where diseases are clearly defined, such as stroke, cardiac insufficiency and oncology. In these cases it is important to examine all the processes in order to settle on the right disease related workflow. In many other cases taking a generic view can be helpful, thus evaluating a patient's progress from admission through to discharge, regardless of the diseased diagnosed.

How does that work in practice and what are the results?

In the case of the generic approach we organize workshops with those employees who know best about operations on the ground in the hospitals concerned. With them we chart the patients pro-gress step by step. We dont focus on the patients diagnosis, and therefore dont cling to the main five diagnosis-related groups (DRG). We look at things from the patients angle instead, a bit like using a skiers action cam. We recently advised a hospital where using this approach we were able to demonstrate savings of 67 euros per case. Even if only 10 per cent of our recommendations are implemented, a hospital dealing with around 30,000 cases a year can still achieve savings in a six-digit range. To that can be added income from improving DRG processes, which the above does not include. That really does make it worthwhile.

How can visitors to conhIT 2014 find out more about the consulting services offered by Siemens?

At our booth, we showcase our disease-related 'Act on' consulting service, as well as KaPITO (Index-based Process and IT Optimization), the company's generic consultation offering, which recently won the M&K Award 2014 granted by the German trade magazine Management & Krankenhaus. We will gladly explain these consulting services in detail to visitors and will also have experts available to advise on up-to-the-minute topics such as IT security and hospital risk management.

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HIMSS Europe

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