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SAP continues to provide innovations that are helping many healthcare organisations around the world to deliver high value patient care and the personalized healthcare experience expected by today’s healthcare consumers. Through our ecosystem around the continent, healthcare organisations are now able to exchange real time information among patients with full visibility and transparency of operational support.

 The improved use of data is driving better quality patient care and increased cost efficiency in the hospital sector. But, says Peter Mills, Head of Healthcare, T-Systems, without the right core system in place, hospitals will struggle to unlock the true benefits of digital transformation.

“The healthcare sector is moving away from simple treatment to a more patient-centric model that prioritises quality of care. As hospitals compete for talent and customers, their ability to deliver quality care in an efficient and cost-effective way will be the key differentiating factor in their success.”

SA’s highly competitive hospital sector

 South Africa currently has more than 400 public hospitals and a further 200 private ones delivering critical care services to a growing population of more than 55 million. However, hospitals are often chronically understaffed, compromising their ability to deliver effective care to patients. In fact, studies suggest vacancy rates for doctors as high as 56% and for nurses 46%.

“Hospitals compete for customers and talent just like any other business,” explains Mills. “Patients often choose a hospital based on its reputation and facilities: the better the facilities, the better the hospital’s ability to attract top talent, which in turn helps ensure a better quality of care for patients. This patient-centric approach to healthcare is driving transformational change across the sector, with hospitals going to great lengths to ensure each patient receives the best possible care. We have already started the digital transformation journey with several of the country’s largest private hospital groups, and demand continues to remain high.”

Mills argues that digital transformation within a hospital context starts with digitising standard processes. “Hospitals often start with getting all patient records documented properly. This is critical not only for the delivery of care to the patient, but to ensure diligence for medical insurance purposes. Ideally, this digitisation of patient records will be built on a technology platform that can integrate with other systems, such as third-party pharmacy or laboratory systems.”

Digital core drives cost-efficiency, better care

Mills and his team works closely with the SAP Africa team to drive the digital transformation agenda within the healthcare sector. “Our partner SAP provides a platform that enables hospitals to standardise processes across departments. Its cloud-based delivery reduces the need for capital expenditure, freeing up capex for additional facilities and equipment. In addition, hospitals gain real-time analysis and execution of all data, including debtors, patient records, invoicing and more.”

SAP’s S/4 HANA platform is a cloud-based in-memory computing platform that helps to automate back-office operations while providing healthcare professionals with a real-time view of current occupancy, revenue per bed, facilities management, patient records and more. “Any core healthcare system needs to be able to integrate easily with blood bank data, laboratory systems, medical insurers, and financial intermediaries. Through better care and improved cost and revenue management, hospitals are able to increase their profitability which in turn allows them reinvest in their facilities, helping them claim a competitive edge in a challenging market,” explains Mills. “The cost of the technology platform is also controlled as it’s an off-the-shelf solution that can be customised, instead of a bespoke system that carries enormous development costs.”

According to SAP Africa Healthcare Industry Principal Charmaine Odendaal, the administration of a hospital is one of the most direct ways to extract greater profitability. “Hospitals need to have an accurate real-time view of how money is spent and what the total cost of patient care is. In addition, hospitals need a clear view of their talent pool, as well as the capacity of each member of hospital staff. Increasingly, we are seeing patients and medical insurers demand value outcomes linked to the quality of their care, while controlling costs. Without a digital core that can deliver real-time insights, hospitals will struggle to maintain profitability and quality of care.”

Odendaal adds that African hospitals are perfectly poised to leapfrog some of the problems experienced by their peers in more developed countries. “Digital transformation enables better administration and automates repetitive tasks for hospital staff, who are in short supply not only in Africa, but around the world. Technology becomes an enabling tool that lifts some of the pressure off the healthcare professional, leaving them to focus on the most important part of their job: caring for patients. SAP values its role in Africa and around the world in providing the technology platform that enables digital transformation within the healthcare sector, helping hospitals run simpler and improving the level of care and service to patients.”

In related news, SAP also recently launched its rural sourcing management solution to support and grow smallholder farmers.