The digital hospital evolution

Digital healthcare solutions are helping to deliver the highest quality care to the most people possible at the lowest possible cost

Tags: HealthcareIBM (www.ibm.com)
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The digital hospital evolution Birgitta Oltersdorf, Managing Partner, GBS, IBM.
By  Birgitta Oltersdorf Published  May 22, 2014

Globally, the challenges of healthcare delivery vary widely, yet health systems around the world have similar objectives: to deliver the highest quality care to the most people possible at the lowest possible cost.

Healthcare spending around the globe continues to rise at unsustainable rates, consuming an ever-increasing slice of the world’s economy. The GCC’s spending on healthcare information technology needs are set to rise to more than $550m by 2015, according to a new report by Frost & Sullivan.

As measured by the percent of GDP healthcare, costs rose from 8.2 to 9.4 percent from 2000 to 2009. The burden of chronic diseases is rising in both developed and developing nations, fastest among lower-income countries, populations and communities, where they impose large costs in human, social and economic terms.

In response, the industry is undergoing radical transformation, driven by a fundamental shift in the expectations of all stakeholders: patients, governments, insurers, employers and providers. Increasingly, healthcare delivery organizations worldwide are rethinking the services they offer as funding and payment models evolve, focusing on wellness and outcomes rather than volumes of services consumed.

For transformation to succeed, organizations will need to adopt both technology and process improvement strategies to enable secure access, exchange and analysis of patient information and to create greater efficiencies in both business and clinical processes. These strategies will give rise to a more patient-centric care model through better monitoring and management of wellness and chronic disease and enable cost containment while improving overall delivery system health.

Fundamental to this transformation is the digital infrastructure that enables information sharing among healthcare providers, payers and patients. However, deployment of such technologies within the industry has been slow, and uneven across various areas of hospital operations.

Automation of hospital administrative processes, such as patient registration, admission, and discharge is relatively widespread. Yet fully digital hospitals – that run the gamut of clinical applications and advanced hospital information systems interconnected by a robust and reliable infrastructure – are exceptions rather than the rule.

Digital hospitals, whether newly-built or existing operations retrofitted with the latest IT, promise to boost efficiency and quality through better integration with all sources of care. They are enabling deployment of eHealth systems that provide online information, disease management, remote monitoring and telemedicine services that can extend the reach of scarce medical resources and expertise.

Digital hospitals provide faster and safer throughput of patients, creating more capacity through process efficiencies, while containing costs.

Managing complexity

Digital hospitals are complex ecosystems with hundreds of clinical and business processes made up of thousands of sub-processes. When properly integrated, these processes should seamlessly unite patients, clinicians, staff, assets and information throughout the hospital, delivering the right information and resources at the right time to the point of care.

Essential to this integration are the ICT that interconnects all aspects of care delivery and administration. New hospitals take an average of three to five years to build, while existing hospitals that are retrofitted with the prerequisite pervasive, medical-grade networks and multi-modal digital communications can take as long as five to ten years to completely modernise.

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