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Managed services: the tonic for SA’s healthcare delivery

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A flourishing healthcare sector that embraces all citizens is an essential foundation for South Africa to achieve sustainable prosperity and growth, writes Peter Mills,  head of systems integration sales at T-Systems South Africa. In reality: there are many challenges that today deny the citizens of South Africa access to affordable and reliable healthcare.
There are a number of variables that will not change, like, the ratio between clinicians and patients will increase; the rapid increase in lifestyle diseases; the improving healthcare dichotomy where the increase in life expectancy increases the burden of healthcare costs on the country tax base.
In this difficult climate, both public and private healthcare centres are under pressure to limit costs while simultaneously delivering enhanced quality of care, and serving an increasing numbers of patients.
Within our public healthcare institutions, in particular, the challenges of managing highly complex operations are brought starkly into focus. With its emphasis on trying to deliver the best healthcare services, administrative issues in the areas of billing and claims management often cause revenue leakage that compound the problems. Under recovery of costs whether from Public funds or from Medical Aids negatively impacts hospital budgets.

Technology’s advantages
Managed ICT services that are powered by the latest IT Technology advancements and integration into specialised medical technology, can act as the catalyst that improves healthcare delivery.
Technology can empower healthcare providers with a number of advantages:
•             Provide a single view of the patient throughout their entire care lifecycle
•             Improve the patient experience with regards to admissions and discharge
•             Improve revenue per bed and cost controls to drive better return on hospital assets and ensure all costs that can be claimed are processed to the funder
•             Provides end to end transparency of the financial and materials processes to manage expensive drug stocks
•             Create more productive and engaged staff where a material reduction in administrative functions provides more patient time
•             Create less audit exceptions and associated audit costs so management can focus on core functions that benefit the patient
Technology cannot be enabled without strong and committed business project sponsorship. In addition well managed Organisational Change Management initiatives to ensure that all participants take the journey with the organisation is not a non-negotiable today and is a key ingredient in successful projects.
The starting point to achieve these benefits is to connect the three primary areas of the healthcare operation: enterprise management (such as financials and materials), employee management (HR, payroll, performance management, access) and patient management (including clinical records, patient administration, and billing).
By digitising every aspect of their operations, healthcare facilities build up rich stores of data that provide a ‘longitudinal’ view of patients’ health over time. It also lays the foundation for more advanced medical services made available by technology – such as telemedicine, and home-based aftercare that enables hospitals to safely discharge patients earlier – freeing up space to treat more incoming patients on the premises.
For patients, this means simplified processes all the way from admission, to discharge. For management, integration between every aspect of the operations enables better strategic planning, and a consolidated view of every patient enhances the delivery of care.

Capital and operating expenses
Healthcare facilities want to retain their scarce capex budgets for medical equipment and theatre upgrades and they are reticent to invest in ICT Technology.
Being the first company in South Africa to offer a Partner Managed Cloud offering with SAP we offer a number of financing and structured project and support models that allow Customers to access their required capex for their core business.
With lives at stake, critical system downtime is simply not an option – so service availability guarantees like Zero Outage are a non-negotiable. And with the cost pressures we introduced above, fixed prices, described as a ‘price-per-bed-per-month’, help to ring fence costs and guarantee value.

The right partnerships
It becomes critical to partner with managed services providers that combine dedicated healthcare practices (often with staff from a primary healthcare background. Choosing the right ICT Partner is not just about the immediate projects but encompasses a long term relationship that allows access to the latest healthcare technology trends both on a local and international level.
The right partnership is about having access to a trusted advisor that ensures that Customers embrace new technology trends when they are relevant and mature so that any negative business impact can be negated.
We continue to invest and expand our Africa healthcare practice to ensure we offer our Customers the best and most affordable and sustainable technology solutions with access to emerging local and international technology trends.