A multitude of complex business processes govern the administrative and clinical management of healthcare operations. With a greater need for healthcare services and an increasing volume of patients seeking safe and quality care, the healthcare ecosystem can no longer operate in a paper-based environment. Virtualisation of certain healthcare services has become the new normal in this era, writes Shiraaz Joosub, Healthcare Sales Executive, T-Systems South Africa.

The regulatory need for the protection of personal information (PoPI) and the absolute need for an electronic patient record that is accessible, portable and scalable at the point of care is crucial and has resulted in IT becoming a critical driver behind the successful management of  healthcare operations.

In addition, the ongoing global pandemic has now more than ever placed IT on the critical path of every hospital’s strategic objectives, with the realisation that virtualising healthcare amid a global crisis can only be achieved through IT. Most healthcare organisations are now gearing up their digital health strategies, as virtualisation of healthcare delivery is no longer just an option, but a necessity.

Healthcare enterprises need to fast track the roadmap to a “paper-lite” or paperless environment and implementation of an electronic medical record, while aligning to a region’s e-health strategy. At the same time, technology needs to be innovative and conform to international standards to allow seamless integration between people, process and technology as well as aligning to national e-Health initiatives

Seamless integration

The healthcare ecosystem is a composite of key stakeholders that contribute to the treatment and well-being of all life, whether it be human or animal. Healthcare services are delivered in either public or private sectors and form part of the overall Integrated Delivery Network (IDN) that renders services to ensure the seamless integration of patient care.

Stakeholders that form part of an ideal IDN include hospitals, clinics, allied health services, suppliers of infrastructure, medical equipment and consumables. Healthcare ecosystems are governed by the demographics of the patients they are required to treat, including the regions in which they operate. This dictates the model of care, quality and accessibility of healthcare ecosystems.

IT innovation in healthcare has permitted the sector to elevate the quality and safety of patient care. It draws from years of documented evidence and experience leading to more innovation in digital healthcare.

Hospitals measure performance against international benchmarks and this measurement is highly dependent on IT. A typical example is where a clinical pathway is the basis of treating a specific medical condition and technology supports the decision-making and governance around specific treatment protocols.

IT supports the measurement of a clinician’s adherence or variance to a specific clinical pathway, including its impact on the quality of care, cost of care and related profitability. This real-time information and analytics assists hospitals to better manage patient outcomes and manage operating expenditure relative to patient care.

Key challenges

Some of the key challenges of deploying the required technology in a hospital include the high cost of healthcare technology, the time to implement, the complexity of administrative and clinical processes and the need for integration within the operating healthcare ecosystem.

Most CIOs have invested in developing their enterprise architecture prior to investing in the required technology, as it presents a formal and structured approach to their digital health strategy that conforms to international frameworks and standards.

Enterprise architecture allows an organisation to document, in a structured and formal manner, the artefacts that make up the business, information, data, applications and technology dimensions of an enterprise.

The value associated with this approach includes documenting the complexity of a hospital’s business and enabling informed business planning. It also includes interoperability and integration, aligning technology solutions with business requirements, and enabling the analysis of the impact of changes. Enterprise architecture principally allows a hospital to govern its IT universe while aligned to its business needs.

IT in a hospital is no longer an option, given regulatory requirements and the need to automate processes that impact administrative and clinical functions, as well as enable the delivery of best practice healthcare.

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