Embracing the Digital Transformation for Greater Financial Clarity and Lower Total Cost Of Ownership

Our Global Healthcare Business Development Manager, Andrew Hockenhull discusses how hospitals can improve their patient care, while also lowering costs by embracing new technology and the digital transformation.

The healthcare industry is never far from the latest innovation or technological advancement. However, for most hospitals and medical institutions, a lack of funding prevents the implementation of the latest and greatest equipment. With old equipment often being sweated until it’s no longer fit for purpose. This results in high maintenance costs, inefficiency, and ultimately inadequate patient care. This situation suits no one. Doctors and hospital bosses want to ensure their patient care is unsurpassed and likewise, patients yearn for the confidence that they’ll receive the best care and a swift recovery. The facts of the matter are hospitals are being placed under greater demand today than they were ten years ago, despite having less resource in terms of money, staff and equipment.

It’s not only medical equipment that can aid the quality of care and improve operational efficiency, but also the digital transformation as a whole. Due to modern technological advancements we now (as both a consumer and a patient) are expecting a much better customer experience than we were previously used to, whether it be in a retail environment or a healthcare environment. The healthcare sector hasn’t as of yet seen the levels of digital disruption that we have seen within the retail environment per se. Sure we’ve seen a rise in electronic prescribing, and electronic health records, but these are only taking the current form of something and simply transferring them into an electronic version of the same. Within the healthcare sector, there remains a significant possibility for the transformation of processes.

The procurement and management of healthcare technology have a lot of room for transformation and as such a Managed Equipment Service (MES) is a model we’ve seen grow in popularity in recent years. Typically a hospitals route to market was either a capital purchase or leasing. With regards to leasing the options were generally either through the frameworks or direct with the manufacturers. However, these two routes only provide hospitals with access to financing options. What hospitals really require is access to a complete equipment management solution that can ensure the replacement of equipment at given intervals, together with full maintenance and service packages and then has a bespoke financial solution encompassed within this. An MES is designed to be that solution. With dwindling budgets hospital managers and procurement directors need to consider the cost of the investment, against the potential return more than ever. An MES can provide a hospital with an always-on solution that provides them with the latest healthcare technology, guaranteed equipment uptime, regular maintenance, and equipment/consumable replacement all for a known fixed monthly or annual fee. An MES is designed to be a flexible agreement that can not only enhance patient care but also improve operational efficiency. By utilising an MES solution a hospital can transfer the financial and maintenance risk onto the provider, as an MES solution can be kept off the institution's balance sheet, allowing for a potential VAT reclaim. Further financial gains include benefiting from fixed interest rates. Perhaps the biggest advantage, however, of an MES is the time and money savings that can be generated. In addition to the VAT savings, an MES means you can price your future deliveries, negotiate discounts for large volumes of equipment and service and also benefit from no disposal costs. Aside from lowering the hospital's total cost of the ownership by placing the administrative burden onto the MES provider, the hospital can save themselves significant time and improve operational efficiency by having the provider manage the complete solution.

Another area that can benefit from the implementation of digital technology is healthcare asset management. Currently, we see a lot of healthcare institutions lacking an adequate asset management system, with excel spreadsheets still proving a popular method. In corporate settings asset management software is already pretty common, with hospitals being left behind.

We all know hospitals have a wide spectrum of equipment available to them from CT scanners and X-rays to endoscopy equipment and infusion pumps. What we don’t know, however, is how hospitals actually manage these types of equipment. How do you know where each asset is located? How do you know when a CT scanner requires maintenance or service? How do you keep track of invoices and work out how much an asset is really costing you? These complications that patients don’t often consider or even realise are present all contribute to the level of care a hospital can provide. Doctors and Clinical Nurses can’t afford to spend their time looking for missing equipment. The importance of efficient hospital asset and contract management cannot be overlooked. Having a system in place that can track where an asset is located, can provide access to all contracts and invoices, can unlock VAT savings, has all the latest equipment information on such as date of last service, allows you to order new equipment and create problem tickets at the touch of a button cannot be underestimated. Such a system can unlock significant time and cost savings, relieving the administrative burden away from hospital staff, thus allowing them to focus on patient care.

A lot of asset and contract management tools now come with apps that allow you to scan barcodes directly from your smartphone or tablet. By using your smartphone's camera or combining it with a handheld scanner, you can capture the serial numbers of all assets and allocate them automatically. The app can then transmit this data directly to your online asset management system. This digitalised process helps to provide more reliable asset tracking, in addition to saving time and money, by automating what would otherwise be quite a cumbersome, lengthy manual process. RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) asset management is another form of digital technology that can improve efficiency with regards to the tracking of assets. Unlike a barcode, with RFID technology the tag does not need to be within the line of sight of the reader, meaning it can be embedded within the tracked object. RFID technology unlocks the potential for further significant time savings for the hospital. For example, if you've got a large number of small assets to scan the time savings when using RFID over barcode scanning is unprecedented.   

We are still waiting for the digital transformation to really take off in the healthcare industry, but there is no reason why it shouldn’t be able to significantly improve current processes. The way our healthcare industry operates hasn’t really changed much over time. If, as a patient, we recognise something is wrong we make an appointment, sit in a waiting room, see a doctor and then receive the verdict. We are starting to witness a slight change to this model with the increase in mobile apps that empower the patient. Could we possibly ever transform our healthcare environment to shift away from its reactive state, to a model that focuses on predictions and preventions. We are still some way from achieving this, but it remains a goal that we should strive to move forward towards.

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Andrew Hockenhull

Global Business Development Manager, Healthcare

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