Hospitals are Becoming Smart Hospitals

Pierre-Michael Meier is the general manager of Entscheiderfabrik, a think tank for hospital managers, and is involved in the European Association of Hospital Managers (EVKM). He strongly believes that clinics should develop new digital business models in order to stay competitive and keep up with innovations in healthcare.

October, 2019

If a question arises, the surgeon can call a colleague or specialist (who has the surgeon’s field of vision on their screen) to confer and assist with diagnosis.  © apoQlar GmbH

Mr. Meier, what course do hospitals have to chart today in order to prepare for the massive change digitalization has set in motion?

Hospitals are facing major disruption to their traditional business models and the challenge of having to react appropriately. Many digitalization projects, new digital tools and applications are welcomed as they bring clinics clear benefits and added value. But only the hospitals that actively and positively take advantage of these opportunities will increase their potential and ultimately be successful. Data management, i.e. health information management, is the key to success.

Why is data management so important?

Health information management systems ensure that all data can be captured efficiently by all actors and used across system and sector boundaries. Without such data platforms, hospitals cannot seamlessly exchange data between individual digital health records and their own patient records or efficiently use data from new digital assistance systems. When budgets are tight, the digital hospital can secure revenues and effectively shape processes while being assured of data protection and data security.

What are the challenges facing hospitals?

Because clinics are structurally underfinanced, it is difficult for them to handle new technologies and investments. At the same time, the lack of skilled workers is becoming more critical, as is pressure from union-driven wage increases. Health insurance funds are placing ever higher demands on the services provided by hospitals. In this environment, hospitals will only be able to continue to operate successfully as ‘smart hospitals.’ To achieve this, they will not only have to digitalize individual processes but also rethink their overall business models and develop new digital services.

What does that mean specifically?

So far, hospital managers have concentrated on three typical factors that have to be controlled in order to provide high quality services in a cost-efficient way: surpluses, capacity utilization and investments. In the digital age, a new trio must be coordinated and delivered: quality, information exchange and financing. The digital hospital has to revolve around patients. Hospital managers who want to keep pace with this development must network with other decision-makers and with IT and organizational experts. It is not just about adapting to individual technologies or new applications. The entire business model of hospitals must change. Hospital managers should therefore be asking themselves whether a digital agenda is embedded in their corporate strategy or not.