It would be inconceivable nowadays to operate a hospital without information and communications technology. Used in the right way, IT solutions can reduce the load on hospitals in more ways than just economically. They can also contribute to quality enhancement and improve patient care. How to tackle IT projects in hospitals in order to reap this "double" added value benefit is one of the major topics at conhIT 2015.
According to Gunther Nolte, head of Information Technology and Telecommunications at Vivantes - Netzwerk für Gesundheit, "the concept that the main aim of IT in an enterprise is to cut costs is unfortunately still very widespread in the hospital sector." Cost reduction is obviously a major reason for implementing IT projects, but "those who are focused solely on cost reduction are denying themselves the many opportunities and added value that IT can provide", said Nolte, who will be co-chairing the "Value contribution of IT in the hospital" session at conhIT 2015 together with Helmut Schlegel, IT manager at the Nürnberg Klinikum (Wednesday 15 April, 9.30 - 11 a.m.). As an IT expert, he recommends taking a strategic approach to the subject of IT in hospitals instead of dogmatically focusing on costs and savings. "The real objective should be to position the hospital, as a business enterprise, better by deploying IT solutions." One example of this kind of strategic aim could be to improve patient therapy or make it even safer, for example by using IT to improve process quality or to minimise risk.
Broad consultation is a prerequisite to success
However, in the daily routine the question often arises as to the practical implementation of a strategic approach to hospital IT. "Smaller and medium-sized hospitals in particular often have problems with a strategic IT approach because IT department staffing is calculated with a very tight margin and executive management fails to appreciate efforts to expand IT," says Dr. Christoph Seidel, CIO at Klinikum Braunschweig, who joins Dr. Carl Dujat of promedtheus AG in heading the conhIT session "IT strategy and IT service management for small and medium-sized hospitals - recipes for success in practice" (Tuesday, 14 April, 9.30 - 11 a.m.). Dr. Seidel considers close consultation with a hospital's administrative, medical and nursing management to be one of the major success factors in achieving a viable IT strategy and sustainable IT service management: "We need to discuss this topic on a wider basis. As IT experts we can make proposals, but strategy development cannot be the task of the IT sector alone," Dr. Seidel explained.
As regards actual projects Dr. Nolte and Dr. Seidel recommend coordinating medium-term IT project planning with everyone involved. This is where priority projects should be defined. "In the end, the question is whether money and effort should be invested in small projects supported by individuals which are of little value to the entire enterprise, or rather whether to tackle major projects such as the digital case file or digital imaging which benefit everyone. In the latter case the added value is often greater, even if it is more difficult to calculate the costs in the early stages," Dr. Nolte explained.
At the conhIT Congress there will be a number of discussions based on real-life examples about how a strategic approach to hospital IT can pave the way to success. For instance, the session chaired by Dr. Nolte and Dr. Schlegel will examine how use of the electronic patient file can aid quality management, as well as electronically assisted medication prescriptions and IHE standardised communications between hospitals, along with other related topics.
The session chaired by Dr. Seidel and Dr. Duval will deal with centralisation of medical data in an archive and use of a standardised architecture to ensure safe operation of medical IT systems. "Archiving, in particular, is an important part of an IT strategy," Dr. Seidel explains. After all, it is also essential to check compliance with regulatory provisions such as legislation on patients' rights and the obligation to maintain documentation so that the chosen solutions will continue to be usable in the future too.
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About conhIT - Connecting Healthcare IT
conhIT targets decision-makers in IT departments, management, in the medical profession, healthcare services and administration, nursing, doctors, doctors' networks and medical care centres who need to find out about the latest developments in IT and healthcare, meet members of the industry and make use of opportunities for high-level advanced training. As an integrated event, over a period of three days conhIT combines an Industrial Fair, a Congress, an academy and Networking Events that are of particular interest to this sector. Launched in 2008 by the German Association of Healthcare IT Vendors (bvitg) as the meeting place for the healthcare IT industry and organised by Messe Berlin, this event recently recorded 359 exhibitors and 6,495 visitors in 2014 and has now become Europe’s leading event for the healthcare IT sector.
conhIT is organised in cooperation with the following industry associations: the German Association of Healthcare IT Vendors (bvitg), the German Association for Medical Informatics, Biometry and Epidemiology (gmds), the German Association of Medical Computer Scientists (BVMI) as well as content participation by The National Association of Hospital IT Managers (KH-IT) and the Working Group of Directors of Medical Computing Centres at German University Clinics (ALKRZ).