Among other things, the coronavirus crisis has revealed the immense benefits of the digitisation of healthcare delivery. Conversely, it has also made the lack of digital infrastructure more noticeable and has moved the digitisation of healthcare delivery further upon hospitals’ investment agendas. Nevertheless, the financing of those plans remains a challenge. Thus, federal initiatives that help to execute the digitisation agenda are much needed.
German government introduced major IT-funding initiative
Within the DACH region, Germany has made the most comprehensive move with its “Krankenhauszukunftsgesetz” (KHZG or Hospital Future Act) in terms of financially incentivising the digital transformation of hospitals. It was passed into law on 28 September 2020 and earmarked a total of €4.3 billion in funding for hospitals to invest in the modernisation of emergency capacities, digitisation and IT security.
Anna Hitz, Partner Healthcare at Indema AG, a Zürich-based consultancy specialising in the digital transformation of healthcare and public sector in Switzerland, says that there are no initiatives on a comparable scale in Switzerland, except for some smaller ones in support of research initiatives. “Nevertheless, the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health is dedicated to bringing forward the digital transformation of healthcare delivery”, she points out and remains optimistic that there will be more initiatives in the Swiss market in due course.
Platforms, digital pathology and patient portals are top investment priorities
One effect of those larger-scale national funding initiatives is more homogenous investment activities among healthcare organisations. Thomas Zwahlen, managing partner, Indema AG, expects a continuation of the trend among Swiss hospitals to consolidate the heterogeneous hospital information system landscape: “We will see a consolidation in the number of hospitals and of software solution providers in Switzerland. The lack of a national IT-strategy to date has resulted in a plethora of siloed IT-solutions.”
In the long run, he also foresees a consolidation of vendors as well as IT consultants. Hitz adds that the consolidation of mainly smaller hospitals in Switzerland will result in hospitals spending more on harmonising their processes and public appearances.
In Germany, Hitz expects to see more investment in patient portals over the next two years as this is one of the solutions in which implementation is financially supported by the KHZG.
Indema generally believes that digital pathology, a subset of enterprise image management, will be an overarching investment priority in the DACH region: “Digital pathology is the last analogue bastion in hospitals, although its technical foundation has been around for some time, especially affordable storage. Its implementation in Germany will be helped by the fact that it is supported by the KHZG”, explains Hitz.
Additionally, due to the pandemic, Indema sees more activities in the field of self-service platforms including electronic booking systems, as well as telemedicine across DACH. Nevertheless, despite certain national investment trends, Indema cautions that investment priorities can vary from hospital to hospital.
Partnering for success
Indema, which operates as an intermediary at the intersection between hospitals and IT vendors, focuses on technology, processes and organisational development with content management at the core of its healthcare business. It works with an ecosystem of partners and proposes best-of-breed solutions to its clients.
Its partnership with US-based Hyland, in particular, opens up new opportunities in the Swiss market. “The partnership with Hyland offers us extremely valuable, uncomplicated access to a wealth of know-how, which we can pass on to our customers,” says Zwahlen. He continues: “It enables us to find new solutions for our clients that have not yet been tried in Switzerland that lags behind the US and the Nordic countries regarding digital maturity. Our customers value this and can profit from Hyland’s continuously growing expertise as it keeps acquiring and successfully integrating companies on an ongoing basis.”
This partnership started in 2019 and both partners complement each other, according to Hitz. “Hyland is an internationally successful software vendor with broad expertise across several industry sectors, including healthcare. As a locally operating provider of consulting services specialising in healthcare and the public sector, Indema provides Hyland with a foothold into the Swiss market that is markedly different from its own, especially in terms of the size of its clients’ operations,” she comments.
Hitz continues: “The university hospital ‘Insel’ in Bern with more than 40 different clinics and institutes and almost 900 beds, is one of the largest hospitals in Switzerland. In contrast, many US hospitals are easily three times the size of the Insel hospital and specialise in only one discipline,” she says. “We can support Hyland with our deep knowledge of the Swiss healthcare market, its political and regulatory framework as well as current developments,” reiterates Zwahlen Indema’s input.
“We have familiarised ourselves with Hyland’s solution platform. This enables us to offer our clients new solutions and approaches that can greatly benefit hospitals Switzerland,” concludes Hitz. This makes it a win-win for all involved.
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