Ready or not – we are in the midst of what to many people still feels like “the future”. The rapid advance of digitalization is changing every aspect of our lives. Technologies such as the Internet of Things, augmented reality, blockchain, and social media are bringing about an unprecedented transformation, affecting our work in ways we never anticipated.
Illustration: Dmitri Broido
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Meanwhile, demographic change and rapid population growth are posing serious challenges to healthcare providers and payors. Against this backdrop, you are probably asking yourself: How can I deal with constantly growing cost pressure, falling reimbursement rates, and fewer specialist staff – all while living up to increasingly high patient expectations? The good news is that you are not alone! Healthcare providers the world over are faced with similar challenges. What is more, there is a strategy that can unite them all in the pursuit of shared growth: coopetition.
“A lack of digitalization is clearly a showstopper for any department that aspires to become more efficient.”Johan Sjöberg, Medical Physicist, Karolinska University Hospital, Stockholm, Sweden
Open environment for healthcare stakeholders
Interaction between coopetitive companies is characterized by a partial congruence of interests – they cooperate in order to boost value creation for all. Applied to healthcare, this is an especially powerful concept: Every day, vast amounts of health-related data are generated in the form of images, laboratory results, pathological findings, reports, and so on. Year for year, this vast pool of data grows by 48 percent. However, as long as the data is not interpreted or shared, it is mostly useless.
To enable smart use of health-related data, Siemens Healthineers has created an open and secured environment for a wide range of healthcare stakeholders. They can use a range of applications from Siemens Healthineers and numerous other partners to get the most out of shared healthcare data. This Digital Ecosystem is not a product, but a concept – designed to promote innovation and collaboration along the entire healthcare supply chain. As in a natural ecosystem, participants interact and grow together. The insights they gain from their own data are complemented by additional findings flowing from the combined data pool of all the participants in the platform.
How can healthcare providers access specific applications?
A dedicated online store allows users to search for applications or to request a quotation or trial. Offerings available will include both cloud-based and locally installed deployments (on-premise applications). Users will be able to purchase and deploy applications in their setting – either by installing them locally or through a secure cloud connection. Best of all: Customers and patients benefit from an ever-expanding range of medical applications.
What is coopetition?
There are numerous examples of problems that are easier to solve for a partner in an ecosystem than for a single provider. Depending on the situation or problem at hand, interactions between participants in the ecosystem can be both collaborative and competitive in nature, leading to the creation of new knowledge. In a flourishing digital healthcare industry, contributors become beneficiaries, and beneficiaries become contributors. This phenomenon is described as coopetition.
“Since the introduction of our first cloud-based offerings, we have created an environment in which users leverage the insights of close to 40 million clinical dose and utilization studies from operating imaging equipment.”Alexander Lippert, Head of Digital Ecosystem, Siemens Healthineers
Many of today’s healthcare challenges can be overcome
If this ecosystem grows and flourishes, it will enable healthcare providers worldwide to harness the full power of a digital healthcare system: It can help benchmark performance, guide diagnosis, make treatment more precise, establish best practices faster – and much more. Well-trained pattern-seeking algorithms can roam enormous data repositories to identify trends and correlations that are undetectable to human observers. By leveraging the power of digitalization, many of today’s healthcare challenges can be overcome. For example, by connecting their imaging equipment to a single global, cloud-based network, providers would be able to view real-time utilization data, monitor patient radiation doses, or share protocols.
Or even predict therapy response: Resistance to conventional radiation therapy is a major issue in the treatment of late-stage lung cancer, leading to relapse. The heterogeneity of tumors makes it difficult to personalize therapy. One approach to improving the accuracy of lung cancer diagnosis in order to personalize therapy is using predictive analytics and noninvasive imaging in conjunction with AI-powered decision-support tools and quantitative genomics to predict therapy response. This strategy relies on information from a wide range of different sources.
“Siemens Healthineers imaging equipment, in vitro solutions, as well as associated software and services globally cover more than 200,000 patients per hour. Healthcare providers stand to benefit immensely from combining the resulting information within an ecosystem: Instead of relying on insights gained from 500 cases, this would allow them to draw on millions,” explains Alexander Lippert, Head of Siemens Healthineers Digital Ecosystem.
Getting everyone on board
It seems we are more than happy to trust in IT when we put our private lives online, but much less so when it comes to our professional life in the healthcare industry. Many of us are reluctant to share our data and information in the cloud, for reasons ranging from reservations about cloud-based systems in general to strategic or legal considerations.
How do I prepare and motivate my team to embrace the benefits of digitalization?
Johan Sjöberg, Medical Physicist at Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm, has an answer: “There will be challenges in the adoption, efficient use, and development of digital tools for some healthcare employees. However, any challenge holds the potential for learning opportunities. Fostering better digital competence in the workforce is achieved by adopting digital tools and workflows. Any tool that can be seen to create value for an employee will be used by that employee. Active training in combination with clear leadership from the organization can pave the way for quick adoption. Digital healthcare opens up opportunities for team collaboration across disciplines and sites, replacing the fragmented traditional silo-based system.”
How is data security guaranteed in an ecosystem?
Alexander Lippert, Head of Healthineers Digital Ecosystem, has an answer: “There are two aspects of data security: privacy protection and IT security. The importance we attach to privacy protection is apparent from the fact that we earned the European Privacy Seal certification for teamplay Dose and teamplay Usage. These applications were designed to prevent patient-specific information from reaching the cloud from the outset. Our approach to IT security is equally forward-looking. We perform threat and risk analyses before developing new features. Our software is constantly subjected to penetration tests in which experts try to infiltrate our systems and identify weaknesses. In addition, the Microsoft Azure Cloud Platform provides us with a reliable and secure environment in which to aggregate and analyze all the data."
Johan Sjöberg, has an answer: “Patient outcomes are improved whenever efficiency, timeliness, accessibility to care, or patient safety are improved. Decisions informed by data are more likely to be rational as they are evidence-based rather than opinion-based. Evidence-based decision-making has better potential to generate more effective and safe care that can be delivered to patients faster.”
 Stanford Medicine 2017: Health Trends Report.
- Johan Sjöberg, Medical Physicist, is employed by an institution engaged in contractual collaboration with Siemens Healthineers.
- The statements by Siemens Healthineers customers described herein are based on results that were achieved in the customer’s unique setting. Since there is no “typical” hospital and many variables exist (e.g., hospital size, case mix, level of IT adoption) there can be no guarantee that other customers will achieve the same results.