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Run, EHR, run!

We’ve all been there – becoming accustomed to using the standard functions of a program like a spreadsheet, and wondering ‘what do the other options do?’ Then a co-worker shows you a document on the same program with functionality that you can only dream of.

Plain vanilla instead of a sundae

That is exactly the problem many hospital IT managers face when it comes to complex solutions such as SAP’s framework, which the i.s.h.med® electronic health record (EHR) can be fully integrated with through SAP for Healthcare. Most of the time, only the standard functionality is used, with no time to learn more about the complex system structures and optimize the solution to improve workflows and applications. Metaphorically speaking, many hospitals are happy with plain vanilla ice cream even though they have all the ingredients for a sundae.

One might argue that a basically well operating IT infrastructure is already worth something and that the IT personnel are constantly participating in training and working on improvements. The question arises, however, if this is the wisest approach in times of increasing work intensification, an extreme shortage of skilled workers, and tight budgets. A highly networked system like i.s.h.med, which is fully integrated with SAP, is particularly suitable for the representation of comprehensive workflows and a transparent and simple implementation of complex processes – with the necessary expansion and customization.

Capabilities of hospital IT often unused

Carsten Emmerling, lead program manager in the Managed Services department at Cerner, knows a thing or two about that: “Many hospitals don’t make use of the full potential of their SAP systems and the integrated i.s.h.med EHR. As a consequence, processes are not run at their most efficient, and money is wasted.

“Another aspect is IT and data security: with a more complex system infrastructure, the risk of security breaches increases if you are not very familiar with the software and do not always keep it up to date. Deploying current versions and security patches is a start, but only one side of the coin. Truly dangerous security breaches most often lie hidden in the system settings. In order to understand these, you really need in-depth knowledge as well as constant and extensive training. Unfortunately, in most cases the average hospital IT department neither has the resources nor the finances to manage that.”

Certification to become a Run SAP Partner in the health care industry has begun

Even associates at Managed Services whose main task is to constantly optimize clients’ SAP systems and their components – like i.s.h.med – have to take strides to keep up to date. “Continuous training is essential,” says Emmerling. “But that is only the tip of the iceberg. For that reason, we are in the process of becoming a Run SAP Partner, which will make us the first dedicated health care IT provider worldwide to be certified. This will expand our associates’ expertise tremendously and allow us to offer not only support and basic operation, but also comprehensive optimization services from one provider.”

During the certification process, the associates of Cerner Managed Services are introduced to the details of SAP Solution Manager – a centralized SAP application management solution – and learn all about them. “Associates of a company that is a certified Run SAP Partner must be able to extensively use the tools and methods of the SAP Solution Manager,” explains Emmerling. “This allows them to monitor and optimize client systems in a very comprehensive way that many IT specialists cannot provide. To use the example of a spreadsheet, it is comparable to the standard user and the highly experienced user who knows all the details and hidden functions of the application as a result of intensive training and continuous practice. One uses some functions of the software whereas the other really makes use of them.”

Focus on core tasks and improved TCO

The optimization of their SAP systems is not the only advantage clients experience when utilizing Managed Services. “Basically, it is all about the hospital’s IT department being able to focus on its core responsibility: planning the IT landscape as well as initiate and implement projects,” says Emmerling.

“One of the reasons for the rather slow digitization in German hospitals may be attributed to the fact that IT staff are still overly occupied with routine work, such as system monitoring and maintenance. This is an area where we have been able to help for a long time and clients making use of this offer report that they suddenly have the resources to push for digital transformation, which then allows for a considerable improvement in efficiency of their processes.”

Cost arguments have no grounds, says the expert: “Normally, additional software or hardware is not necessary. We work with components that are standard parts of the SAP installation. In the end, the client purchases expertise that supports a continuous optimization of the IT landscape and the minimization of security threads. On top of that, more resources become available to focus on a targeted expansion of IT structures. Furthermore, TCO can be improved and the risk of a system downtime or external intrusion can be minimized.”

With increased cost pressure and the need for efficient processes without affecting care quality or jeopardizing the reputation of the hospital, collaboration with a certified specialist is definitely worth thinking about. The certification as a Run SAP Partner will prove once again that Cerner’s Managed Services is one of the top providers of health care IT services.