Managerial staff in the hospital focus increasingly on timely and regular updates. Business intelligence (BI) is long past the point of being perceived as an ominous tool for managers and controllers; in fact, head physicians, nursing directors and departmental managers in numerous hospitals, however small these may be, have come to rely on this approach.
Strategic controlling alone is not going to be enough
Those who think that solutions related to business intelligence are limited to the regular provision of representative figures on current business operations in reports are massively mistaken. Taher Shafie is a team lead and principal consultant for SAP IS-H and business intelligence at Cerner. He explains, “Although purely strategically controlling – e.g. for the purpose of harmonizing data – performing cost unit accountings or contribution margin analyses continue to be necessary; it is, however, no longer sufficient to manage a hospital economically. Short lengths of stay and high patient throughput combined with limited financial and human resources cause operative controlling – e.g. real-time evaluations – to become increasingly important. It begins with the occupancy of single units or functional areas, and extends to other areas, such as surgery management. BI tools must adequately reflect that planning phases have become increasingly shorter while workloads have become notably higher.
In other words, hospitals rely more and more on just-in-time workflows, which is the reason for management requiring just-in-time evaluations to act accordingly.”
New technologies for enhanced data flows
For this reason, the manager and his team take Cerner’s renowned business intelligence solution i.c.m.health® into account, as well as considering new BI approaches. Lead consultant Heiko Dierking is significantly involved in these new developments and points out the improvements: “i.c.m.health pulls data from SAP BW, which, in turn, retrieves and bundles data from SAP ERP systems and other applications. Thus, reports are based on same-day data. SAP Fiori apps (based on SAPUI5) access ERP systems directly and display data through a highly intuitive interface, thereby allowing for an enhanced user experience. This way, hospital managers can access data directly and in an exceptionally time-efficient manner. With SAP Fiori apps being fully compatible with both SAP BW and ERP systems, we are able to merge strategic and operative reporting.” Taher Shafie elaborates on how this development takes into account changes in user practices: “The young generation striving towards leadership positions has grown up using digital devices, which leads to adjusted user behavior; the new leadership generation desires clear, timely and up-to-date information from any location at any time.
In this regard, any hour spent towards refreshing data is perceived as an unnecessary burden. As far as development of future BI solution generations is concerned, we have taken into account that the young leadership generation expects interfaces to be intuitive and where complex menus are no longer needed; instead simply clicking on a link directs them to the desired destination.”
Operative controlling promotes enhanced use of resources
There are more than user requirements impacting the experts’ work; requirements of modern hospital management and legal frameworks play an important role. Heiko Dierking illustrates, “Germany has recently established a new law on the lower limit of nursing staff to be present in different hospital areas [Pflegepersonaluntergrenzenverordnung (PpUGV)], stipulating not only how many caregivers need to be present in specific units, but also which degree of educational training they must have received. If the number of staff present falls below the thresholds set in these provisions, the hospital faces severe penalties. In this context, the problem is not solely related to workforce planning and documentation, however, but with nurses highly sought after, it is also substantially connected to a lack of human resources. Here, a clearly structured and up-to-date overview of the workforce contributes to deploying staff precisely to meet the personnel threshold at all times. This ensures that no extensive burden is put on nursing staff in other units of the hospital. In other words, time-efficient and practice-oriented reporting contributes to deploying staff in the best possible way, thereby balancing the challenges of complying with legal requirements and reducing the staff’s workload. There are, however, additional fields of application, such as discharge management, and an app to evaluate surgery room utilization, and a dashboard with nursing-related analyses.”
Practical development through client collaboration
All of these reports have already been developed in collaboration with clients. “Of course, the new generation of SAP Fiori apps is fully executable on the new HANA database technology, and allows for even faster access,” Taher Shafie explains. “Apps and seamless integration with the cloud will shape the future,” Heiko Dierking is convinced. “By raising operative controlling to a new level, we will be able to use modern technologies to offer a BI solution capable of providing up-to-date information on all devices (such as laptops, tablets, and cell phones) at any time, thereby equipping management with a tool to allow them to make sound decisions on a solid basis of information.”