The healthcare sector is in desperate need for ways to improve its operational efficiency. In this interview, Toni Pihamaa explains why e-procurement is exactly the right way to improve the operational preconditions without having to sacrifice the quality of patient care at all.
How to improve operational efficiency
As the economy is struggling and the shortage of labour is about to hit hard the ageing population, the healthcare sector is in desperate need for ways to improve its operational efficiency. While the focus has, for the most part, been on the patient care, the time has now come to take a good look at the hospital’s procedures – administration and support functions such as procurement.
After all, that is exactly the right way to improve the operational preconditions without having to sacrifice the quality of patient care at all. In fact, quite on the contrary.
“By improving issues such as procurement processes, hospitals can both increase their efficiency and ensure even better patient safety”, claims Toni Pihamaa, Area Manager at Pagero Group, one of Europe’s leading e-business companies.
“A hospital environment features a wide variety of processes that take place in the background. They have no direct effect on how a patient is treated, but they can be a part of an entity that by functioning smoother and more efficiently can help the staff take better care of the patients.”
Optimisation through digitalisation
Pihamaa refers to the benefits of digital tools that can remarkably add value to hospitals in more ways than one. When operations such as purchases are automated, losses can be substantially reduced on various fronts.
“To operate in a purposeful manner, hospitals must have a vast amount of equipment, medicine, clothes and other such things available all the time”, Pihamaa states. “From the patient’s point of view, they can’t risk running out of anything.”
“Not only does automation ensure that just the right products are ordered, it also ensures the hospital receiving just the right amount of them.”
Then again, from the economy’s – and taxpayers’ – point of view, it does not make any sense to have large excess storages laying around. The ideal balance is reached when there is just the right amount of just the right things available, at all times.
An automated, digital procurement process can help achieve just that. As soon as an item is taken from a shelf, it automatically shows in the system. After the stock level goes below a certain amount (that has been determined by learning what the average consumption rate is) an automated order goes to the supplier’s system. Which again arranges timely deliveries so that the hospital never runs out of that particular product.
Everything takes place automatically, without the hospital personnel having to manually handle either stock inventory or purchasing process. In fact, they do not need to even know what happens in the background.
Focus on the essentials
“One of the greatest benefits that automated processes can bring to the hospital environment is the opportunity for everyone to use their time at work the most meaningful way”, Toni Pihamaa mentions.
“As the routines are handled automatically, plenty of administrative burden is lifted off the shoulders of healthcare professionals, who can direct their resources to what matters the most – to taking care of the patients.”
A hospital makes tens of thousands of orders every year, so the point of efficiency is easily proven; even if preparing and sending one is only a matter of minutes, volumes speak for themselves.
“Digitalisation can become a substantial asset for Finnish hospitals literally overnight.”
Another matter is the risk of human error. “With such a vast number of orders accumulating, it is almost impossible to avoid making errors if everything is handled manually”, Toni Pihamaa says. “Not only does automation ensure that just the right products are ordered, it also ensures the hospital receiving just the right amount of them.”
After all, confusing a box with a truckload can be just a matter of checking one wrong box in the manual order form. To err is human.
The window of opportunity
Toni Pihamaa emphasises that automation can handle any repetitive routine task in a more efficient and reliable manner than a human being. Thus, areas such as healthcare could benefit a great deal from putting modern tools to use. While Central Europe, Germany in the forefront, are digitalising their processes in healthcare at an increasing pace, Finland still has plenty of opportunities waiting for capitalisation.
The good news is, the ecosystem has already been established. Digitalisation can become a substantial asset for Finnish hospitals literally overnight.
“Automated purchase processes, for example, require that both the hospital and the suppliers belong to the same general system. By already helping hundreds of hospitals in Europe to benefit from digital tools and solutions, we have built an ecosystem to which the major suppliers also belong. As healthcare institutions throughout the continent order products as a rule from the same suppliers, a great deal of the entire purchase volume can be instantly digitalised also for the Finnish hospitals.”
As the situation so often is, even in the case of bringing the benefits of digitalisation within the Finnish hospitals’ reach is not about technology. More than anything else, it is about looking at the big picture.
This article was originally published in the November 2019 issue of the Finnish magazine Business Class and written by Timo Mansikka-aho, based on an interview with Toni Pihamaa, Area Manager at Pagero Oy. Read the entire article