Goodbye to waiting times

The Schleswig-Holstein University Medical Center (UKSH) is doing the job properly when it comes to digitization. Over 1300 private-practice physicians are already part of the hospital infrastructure. And that’s just the beginning. A series of digital patient services will be ready to go the minute its new central hospitals open in 2019.

UKSH is the largest tertiary-care medical center and employer in Germany’s northernmost state, and it sees itself as a driver of innovation and the economy. One of UKSH’s main goals is to be a key player in the advance of networking and digitization of the state’s healthcare system.

UKSH’s directors set up an autonomous teleradiology infrastructure called med.netz.nord four years ago, which is used to provide telematic services for other hospitals and for using other digital services. Med.netz.nord’s functionality was expanded in 2017, and now more than 1300 private-practice physicians are digitally networked with UKSH via the secure network of the Schleswig-Holstein SHI Physicians Association (KVSH), with over 15,000 documents sent electronically every month. As part of the Construction Master Plan, interdisciplinary central hospitals will be established at both of UKSH’s locations with the objective of providing patients with the best medical care at the highest level of quality through modern infrastructures—with short commutes, short waiting times, and short stay lengths. UKSH will be meeting these aspirations entirely through consistent digitization of treatment processes. Digital patient services form the foundation for communication with patients—before, during, and after their stay at UKSH.

Digital appointment scheduling

In other industries, digital appointment scheduling between clients and service providers has been common practice for some time now. On the other hand, digital scheduling for hospital treatment, with 24-hour availability, is very much an exception. This is exactly where UKSH’s plans for digital patient services begin.

The patient has to register with UKSH online, giving them authorization for simple digital services. Once their data is validated, they are then given access to all other digital patient services. Appointments can be scheduled online 24 hours a day. The patient receives confirmation by e-mail and through the UKSH app, which will also send a reminder and then help them find their way to their appointment in the new central hospital. Outdoor and indoor navigation are important services, not only for patients and visitors, but also for UKSH employees, who will need to find their way around the new buildings immediately.

In the future, the patient admission process will be facilitated by self-service terminals that are also part of the telematics infrastructure, so that returning patients in particular will be able to go straight to their appointments without spending time waiting at the admission desk. The UKSH app also facilitates this process by providing all the necessary information.

In addition, the UKSH app will inform patients of appointment time and location changes and unforeseen waiting times during their stay and remind them of appointments. This will shorten treatment processes and stay times.

The informed patient: patient-guided electronic health records

The patient’s right to informational self-determination has been enshrined in the Patient Rights Act since 2013. Patients should have access to all the relevant information concerning their health status and treatment options. In the future, therefore, every patient at UKSH will be provided with a copy of their medical data and reports in an electronic health record (EGA) after discharge. The EGA can come from either their insurance company (if technically feasible) or another provider, such as Vitabook. At the next stage, patients also will be able to get preliminary information regarding a hospital stay via the EGA, so that they could, for example, complete a preliminary history at home.

Technical infrastructure

UKSH uses Agfa ORBIS, Agfa IMPAX, Optimal Systems ENAIO and SAP as its technical platforms. The various digital services will be provided via middleware by the end of the year:

  • Setting up an online account with UKSH is based on a master patient index (MPI) in conjunction with the master data management system within the HIS.
  • Online appointment scheduling requires access to allocations and individual resource calendars within the HIS.
  • Medical data, reports, and images are provided via connections to the appropriate archives.
  • Storage of all patient-related information on the Internet, in the UKSH app, patient infotainment system, and in the EGA is secure from both a technical and a data protection standpoint.

Implementation of middleware with these functions is a technical challenge in this system environment. UKSH’s IT department will rise to that challenge in 2018 so that digital patient services will be ready when the new central hospitals open in 2019.