Continuous evolution of healthcare industry in emerging markets has encouraged investment in healthcare technologies.

Such investment in Healthcare IT continues to be supported by federal governments around the world and has contributed to the modernisation of Hospital Information System (HIS). HIS market has grown exponentially over the past few years especially in emerging markets in Asia Pacific region. Private healthcare providers/hospitals take key interest in healthcare IT investment opportunities and are often looking for ways and means to improve their return on investment (ROI).

Investment in the right HIS system is a key investment decision for both public and private hospitals and demands a great deal of analysis and diligence to ensure they can fulfil both of their objectives - provide value to their patients (read customers) and their financial gains.

Here is a guide to seven important factors to consider while investing in an HIS system: 

  1. Extent of IT automation needed: Advances in information technology has made automation achievable in every aspect of a typical HIS implementation in a hospital. There are specialised software’s available in the market that provide exclusive and customised billing or records for patients. There are also complete HIS system packages available that offer “one throat to choke” to tackle all the hospital requirements like patient billing, patient records management, OPD scheduling, stores, pharmacy, theatre management etc. However, there is a cost to consider when evaluating how much automation is worth it. The factors like patient workflow followed in the geographical region, compliance with the federal or state health regulations, availability and cost of locally available staff must always be accounted for to offer true “value” to the patients.

  2. Quality of staff required: Like any other business/industry like a retail supermarket or restaurant, the customer (read patient) is more likely to come back if he receives a good quality of service provided to him in his journey from his entry to exit in the hospital. This service includes hospitality of receptionists, navigation facilities inside the hospital building, housekeeping services, promptness and attention from nurses and care shown by the doctor/physician. Patient experience is largely dictated by how well an HIS system integrates all the aspects of a patient journey by bringing together various participants like receptionist, clerk, nurse and doctor etc. to enable them to perform their role efficiently.

  3. Sufficient integration: The global healthcare trends suggest that the hospitals are moving towards becoming more and more data driven i.e. a system of care where doctors/physicians spend less time gathering information from difference sources like lab reports and other patient’s physical parameters and more time assessing such parameters to make informed decisions. An effective HIS system would help gather such data and keep it ready for the doctors/physicians in a presentable format in a timely manner. They key in considering this factor in choosing an HIS system is to look for “turn-around” time to make the accurate data available to the doctors which is in-turn dependent on the integration of HIS system with different departments in the hospital. The right level of integration would imply no data loss and availability of accurate data in the format which is well understood by the examining doctor. This integration could mean one single HIS providing excellent integration between its different components installed in various hospital departments and/or integration with 3rd party systems from other healthcare institutions, government organisations and insurance companies etc.

  4. Implementation time: Complete implementation of an HIS system includes software installation, its pilot testing and staff training. “Getting Started” with humble beginnings and achieving greater level of automation over the course of few years is usually a common approach. While the phased approach to roll-out a big HIS implementation reduces the impact on day-to-day hospital operations, it does however mean that it is cost intensive and prolongs continuous engagement of hospital staff.

  5. Post-implementation support Cost: After the HIS software sale and completion of its implementation, the HIS system is subjected to the load and real time scenarios that dictates its reputation amongst the hospital staff. There are unforeseen or unplanned issues that need to be tackled within the right SLA (service level agreement). The support provided by the HIS vendor plays a significant role in the hospital reputation. HIS systems are also subjected to regular upgrades (like any other software) and hence associated software support cost becomes a key factor to be considered while evaluating the right HIS system.

  6. Software/Hardware dependencies: The hardware or software costs for an HIS system must be analysed and listed in detail. There are dependent costs that come from upgrading the hardware/software, staff training required post upgrade, availability of a roll-back option in the event of outages, additional staff required to support emergency outage situations and nature of emergency support (online/phone/in-person support) etc. Such associated costs must be fully accounted for to avoid last minute upsurge in hospital expenditure in emergency situations.

  7. Compliance and certifications: It is very important to assess the unforeseen and unplanned risks related to HIS system usage. The hardware and software bought from the HIS vendor must be certified for the quality, security, protection against virus attack etc. it provides. There are global certifications available to validate the quality of software/hardware offered by any HIS vendor. Also, there are local government regulations (legal regulations and other federal directives etc.) that the HIS must comply with in order to be accepted by the hospital administration. The cost of such certifications and regulation compliance must be assessed and clarified in advance to properly estimate the overall cost of deploying the HIS system.

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