Hospital Geel, in Geel, Belgium, improves and optimises care processes through digitalisation. CEO Jan Flament and chief physician Dr Jos Opheide talk about why ChipSoft's hospital-wide integrated electronic health record (EHR) HiX perfectly fits their vision for the organisation.

Innovative IT

'We compared several elements when making the decision to go for HiX,' says Flament. 'Of course we considered what it was going to cost, while still keeping the road we wanted to take in mind. You could compare it with buying a car: we could have gone for a Renault, but we went with a Porsche instead. It costs more, but you can do so much more with it.'

'We remain in possession of our own data and are able to use that data. HiX is leading in data exchange: the Care Portal allows for integration with stand-alone systems used in other hospitals and by general practitioners. That is very important, because we value close cooperation with our partners. HiX will also make working here more interesting. That doesn't take away that a Porsche costs more than a Renault, but we find the advantages and the added value it brings are well worth the cost. Because the EHR is fully integrated, there is minimal risk of data loss and optimal patient safety.'

Implementing with limited management organisation

Flament: 'At the same time, we also had to ask ourselves, as a relatively small hospital with 300 beds, whether we had the resources to implement and manage such an elaborate EHR as HiX. Luckily, the answer to that question turned out to be a resounding "yes". A small team of two dedicated IT staff members (with ad hoc assistance of additional IT staff) successfully completed this enormous project. This was also possible due to flexibility and good project management: we were able to quickly redirect our focus whenever required due to the expert support by ChipSoft's project management team. That's the reason we were able to go live with the new EHR so quickly. The implementation process only started in March and we were able to go live in January. This really is an impressive story from all perspectives.'

Connecting healthcare and IT

Flament: 'We decided from the very start that this project would have the highest priority in our hospital. We didn't regard it as an IT project, but as a hospital-wide project. Just like all of our innovations, we also approached the realisation and integration of HiX in a procedural manner. Nursing director Walter Claessens, the project leader, is constantly communicating with physicians, nursing staff, supporting services, and IT. For him, the implementation was also the perfect occasion to organise and streamline all other processes.'

'An important factor for success was the synergy between healthcare and IT. Several staff members from our IT department went to work in the nursing department for the duration of the project, so they could get acquainted with the workflow. Conversely, our nursing staff would also help with application management. This resulted in our administrative staff also being available as primary IT staff to our physicians, so they will always have a 'helpdesk' nearby. Integrating the technical know-how and the core business is the key to creating a strong dynamic.'

Efficient processes

Opheide: 'It's important that physicians are able to do all of their tasks within a single system: making letters, creating operative reports, making appointments, and viewing their schedule. That's what makes it so pleasant to work with HiX: if you have a laptop and an internet connection, you're essentially carrying the entire hospital with you.'

Flament: 'Medical efficiency increases by a lot when we share data internally. The patient only has to tell their story once and we'll all save time. Logistic efficiency will also receive an extra boost by the proper IT: we're able to better utilise our available capacity and we have all the necessary information to determine the perfect moment to, for example, discharge the patient. Bringing together all of those aspects into one solution is the real innovation.'

'A good example of improving efficiency is the use of chatbots. Most patients will walk through a standard tree structure of questions: Every answer a patient gives to a question determines the next question. That's the perfect situation to use a chatbot. In preparation of that, we're drawing-up blueprints for these tree structures for our secretariat. The next step is integrating these blueprints into the software. If we can use that software to lower the average duration of a consultation, that will save us an enormous amount of time.'

Data-driven healthcare

Flament: 'Data is an important - maybe even the most important - building block of our vision of the future. There's a lot of potential in mapping out all healthcare processes and making them more manageable and efficient. The added value of this undertaking is in the first place performance, but it will also improve interaction with other parties and benefit the academic field. HiX will make it easier for us to compile, structure, and interpret our own data.'

Opheide adds: 'There are interesting applications for data on every level. We can already see several opportunities to add value to the medical field: improving communication with the patient, enabling predictive medicine, and improving treatment. For example, by compiling a patient's data and using artificial intelligence to arrive at a more precise diagnosis which can then be used to determine which actions have to be taken.'

On 29 January 2021, the entirety of Hospital Geel went live with the new software. The implementation of HiX heralds a new chapter for the digitalisation of healthcare processes. The goal of that digitalisation is better and more individual patient care, based on and driven by big data.