FINLAND - (HealthTech Wire / News) – The Central Finland Health Care District has reformed its healthcare IT systems by integrating disparate systems across the region, producing large savings in time logging in and out of multiple systems while enabling region-wide information exchange and access to patient information.
In the coming years, healthcare services in Finland will undergo some significant changes, as government reforms restructure both municipal services and healthcare organisations. According to Henna Virkkunen, Minister of Public Administration and Local Government, the objective is to provide a leap in productivity through better planning, improved service processes and especially through increased efficiency in the use of information technology (IT).
- Thirteen IT systems combined into one regional system
- 150-200 man-years of staff time saved by only having to log in and out of one system
- Benefits include better ease of use, improved information exchange and elimination of duplicated tasks
Healthcare providers have already taken action by migrating from local to regional information systems. In 2011, the Central Finland Health Care District merged nine separate patient information systems into one. Prior to this, four IT systems had already been combined into the system. Now in the District, 7,000 healthcare professionals, utilising 4,000 workstations, can access the details of 200,000 patients through an IT system provided by Tieto.
“This type of integration is happening across the country, meaning that organisational boundaries do not complicate patient care any longer,” said Chief Information Officer Martti Pysäys of the Central Finland Health Care District.
Advantages of a centralised system
For the IT management, the advantages of a centralised information system are clear. The 13 different server locations that existed prior to the merger have been combined into a single data centre. Clear savings can be demonstrated in development and maintenance costs. According to Pysäys, the benefits quickly recoup the development costs of a large-scale system. “With 7,000 users, the reduction in time spent on signing in to multiple systems and maintaining disparate patient information saves 150–200 man-years annually. Even if this does not save the equivalent of 150 salaries, the time freed up in this way contributes directly to the improved quality of patient care. In Central Finland, it is estimated that doctors’ efficiency has improved by 10% as a result of the integration,” he explained.
Jarmo J Koski, Chief Medical Officer of Jyväskylä Health Centre, added, “Ease of use and information exchange has been significantly improved in the new regional system, which has helped to eliminate duplicate tasks in the examination of patients. Being able to access patients’ prescriptions and medication details from a centralised system is another clear benefit.”
Identifying the drivers of healthcare costs
According to Jouko Isolauri, Director of Central Finland Health Care District, healthcare information systems have provided clear benefits, but managing information technology costs alone is not enough. “It is very important to be able to see the entire healthcare service chain and assess which factors are driving costs,” he said.
To give an example, Koski cited a significant and costly national health problem — diabetes. The healthcare costs of treating diabetes are some €800m per year and costs have risen significantly as the number of patients has risen. This amounts to 6% of Finland's healthcare costs. “Diabetes should be treated primarily by preventing the development of the disease. Through early intervention in primary health services we can prevent costly complications. A centralised information system brings transparency to the input and output of diabetic care and the related costs,” said Koski.
In future, the benefits of regional systems will become increasingly clear with the introduction of patients' self-care and self-service tools. The online tools will enable time savings by automating routine services that are being provided to diabetics.
Isolauri who has also worked as a doctor and surgeon concluded: “I’d hope, however, that systems do not become entirely automated, but rather support the basic functions being performed. Essentially, healthcare is a personal and human activity, between the caregiver and the patient."
This article is part of HIMSS Insights. © HIMSS Media c/o so2say communications
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