Accelerating digitization of hospitals through innovation
Accelerating digitization of hospitals through innovation
Interview with Lena Frommer, Co-founder of innovation go
Helping hospitals in Germany build a long-term digitization strategy - that is the declared goal of the young founding team of the innovation go platform, which started at the Osnabrück University of Applied Sciences. The project is funded by EXIST, a support program of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi).
Lena Frommer, Co-founder of innovation go
MEDICA-tradefair.com spoke to Lena Frommer, whose master’s thesis laid the foundation for the platform.
Ms. Frommer, your web-based management platform is an application designed to assist hospitals in the planning, implementation, and evaluation of digitization strategies. What can your platform do?
Lena Frommer: Our team of four developed inngo to shape and drive collaborative innovation in hospitals effectively. Our primary objective is to bring the different types of users within the hospital ecosystem together. The idea arose in 2018 as part of a joint project between the Osnabrück University of Applied Sciences and the University Hospital Münster (UKM). Back then, the IT management of the UKM approached the Health Informatics Research Group at the Osnabrück University and expressed the need for a tool that maps the heterogeneous objectives of the users of the different hospital departments and recaps the direction each department wants to take. That’s because it requires an enormous amount of coordination and communication on the part of IT management to consolidate all departments and identify their respective need for digitization. I used this as the basis for my master’s thesis and developed an automated process that assesses the digitization needs of all accountable users.
At the start of our project, we identified the use cases of the different UKM departments and subsequently created a use case catalog. By now, we have created a catalog with over 300 digitization goals by surveying other hospitals as well. Based on this, we developed a process for need-based digitization through innovation.
It enables hospitals, their departments, and the respective users to assess their digitization goals based on a questionnaire. Users must answer questions such as: Why is this goal relevant? Is the goal already being implemented and when is the preferred implementation date? If the goal has already been implemented, what benefits has it generated?
This is who we are and what the inngo platform can do in a nutshell. This also inspired our name. We want to build a culture of collaborative, need-based, targeted innovation in hospitals, with users and management joining forces to accelerate the digitization process. This is often a problem issue in hospitals.
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How has the coronavirus pandemic affected digitization in hospitals?
Frommer: The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the importance of innovation in hospitals. The outbreak has shown that our society desperately needs a modern, sustainable healthcare system. The Hospital Future Act (Krankenhauszukunftsgesetz, KHZF) came into power in October 2020. Public hospitals will receive a share of 4.3 billion euro for digital health measures. We now have the financial means, but where do you start these digital measures and what is actually meant by “digitizing” in this setting? Most hospitals don’t have an overarching strategy but definitely need one to avoid going down the same road again: namely, creating point solutions that tackle single, specific issues and can lead to dissatisfied users and – in the worst-case scenario – to poor patient-centered care. More than ever, the question is: How do you access a great list of top digital priorities? Where do you start to digitize? This is where our platform has shown the importance of allowing users to actively participate in the digitization process.
Who is your target audience and what requirements must users of your platform meet?
Frommer: Our platform is primarily aimed at parties who are responsible for the digital transformation in their respective facilities. This includes IT departments and management but also associates from organizational development. At the end of the day, it pertains to all those persons who wish to actively promote the digitalization of their hospital processes. We give them a tool that allows them to take continuous, need-based, and targeted measures. Of course, we also indirectly integrate the users. Our goal is to appoint a dedicated point of contact for each department who uploads pertinent information onto the platforms to identify the latest specific digitization needs of his/her department.
There are no user requirements for our platform, which makes it even more attractive. It only requires an innovation manager who focuses on the development of new products, services, or processes in the respective hospital. Our experience so far has shown that inngo helps every health care institution tremendously and offers great benefits, regardless of the size of the entity. We have also recognized that the inngo benefits are even greater if hospital structures are more complex and heterogeneous. In other words, the benefit of the platform scales with the complexity and heterogeneity of a facility. That is why it makes sense for any hospital to take all departments and their users on the digitization journey to jointly bring the strategic plan to life and reap the benefits together.
Digitization in hospitals is rarely adapted to the users. inngo wants to change that.
Your product will hit the market in July. Have you already used your platform as a pilot project in a hospital?
Frommer: Right from the start in 2019, the UKM has always been by our side and helped launch this innovation project. Simultaneously, we receive accompanying research support from the Osnabrück University of Applied Sciences. We were also able to enter additional strategic pilot partnerships, which includes the Schwester Euthymia Stiftung (Sister Euthymia Foundation), which means we already conducted several pilot projects. Since we are presently still in the development phase, we are still looking for other strategic partners to position our company and the product for success.
Is your approach a model for the future?
Frommer: Great question. The Covid-19 crisis has definitely accelerated digital strategy initiatives, which is also boosted by the funding that is now flowing into the digitization of hospitals. That being said, the digitization of healthcare still has a long way to go.
But to answer your question: Yes, it is. Our approach is set to become even more relevant in the future because our goal is to develop need-based, holistic digitization through collaborative innovation. In our opinion, digitization is not a success if the digitization of processes is not need-based and primarily pushed as a top-down directive. We must move away from undirected technology implementation and embrace process optimization that is tailored to take application-specific needs into consideration. This means that digitization is predominantly about optimizing processes as required, whether they are digital or analog. It necessitates an effective and efficient digitization strategy. The users play a key role in this setting. Intensive communication between IT, management and users forms the basis for success in innovation implementation. It brings digitization to life and reaps the benefits.
How will digital transformation affect hospitals in ten years?
Frommer: I look forward to finding out what the future holds in this case. We are clearly moving away from a lack of transparency and meaningless technology implementation and are moving towards transparency and targeted, need-based process optimization - which is something our platform supports. I believe effective change must and will take place: we will see a shift from point solutions in the healthcare sector to solutions with seamless interoperability which ensure high quality patient care.
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