Author: Johanna Böhm

Digital Solutions for Hospitals: Reducing Costs and Improving Efficiency

Despite the hospitals overcoming the three-year crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become clear that the healthcare sector still faces numerous challenges. To combat the problems of skilled labor shortage, financial pressure, rising costs, and internal bureaucracy, hospitals need to better leverage the opportunities and technologies of digitization. This blog article will explore the digital solutions that hospitals can utilize to reduce costs for administrative processes and enhance efficiency in patient care.

In this blog article, we will explore the digital solutions that hospitals can utilize to reduce administrative costs and enhance patient care efficiency.

Current trends and challenges in hospitals


Shortage of skilled workers and increasing health burden

A crucial core problem in hospitals today is the acute shortage of skilled workers. Due to demographic changes, hospitals will lack personnel, especially in the nursing field, in the next ten years. This will make it difficult for hospitals to maintain their current organizational structures. A study by PwC confirms this, stating that there could be approximately 1.8 million open positions in the healthcare sector by 2035, potentially causing a shortage of care providers to increase from 7% to 35%. Additionally, with an aging population and the baby boomer generation reaching an age where they require increased medical care, it is questionable whether hospitals can cope with the increasing burden of disease with reduced staff.

Increasing costs are putting a strain on profitability and financial sustainability.

The current macroeconomic situation, including the energy crisis and inflation, presents hospitals with financial challenges. According to a recent study by KPMG in Switzerland, while the revenue development of Swiss hospitals is heading in a positive direction, there is a simultaneous increase in personnel and energy costs and medical supplies expenses. As a result, the average EBITDA margins are expected to fall below the 4% mark in the coming years. Typically, hospitals aim for an average EBITDA margin of 10% to finance necessary investments, such as digitization. These rising costs are putting a strain on the profitability of hospitals and making it difficult for them to maintain their current organizational structures. The financial constraints could lead to insufficient investments in the digitization of hospitals. Therefore, hospitals must find alternative solutions to alleviate the impending financial pressure.

Bureaucracy exacerbates the shortage of skilled workers.

Furthermore, the staff's workload increases as much time is spent on administrative tasks, which hurts patient care. According to a survey conducted by the Marburger Bund, the average time spent on administrative activities (such as data collection and documentation, preoperative scheduling, etc.) that go beyond medical duties is 3 hours per day. 32% of employed doctors surveyed indicate they spend at least four hours daily on administrative tasks and organization. This heavy burden leads doctors to consider a possible career change, as revealed by the survey. While better IT infrastructure and digitization could eliminate many administrative tasks and documentation for hospitals, the survey also shows that many facilities are still far from achieving this. This highlights the need for hospitals to seek alternative digital solutions and automate routine tasks to relieve their medical staff and effectively address the shortage of skilled workers.

Digital applications that can reduce costs, administration, and workload in hospitals

Digitization opens up many opportunities for hospitals to reduce costs, optimize administration, and alleviate staff workload, ultimately leading to improved quality of patient care. Below are several examples of digital applications can be implemented in hospitals to achieve these goals.

  1. Digital Patient Records (EPR or Electronic Health Records): Implementing a digital patient record enables efficient patient data management. Hospital doctors and healthcare staff can easily access and update relevant health information and exchange it with different departments. This improves the efficiency of patient treatment, reduces waiting times, prevents unnecessary duplicate tests and diagnoses, and eliminates costs associated with unnecessary documentation printing, thereby reducing paper and printing consumption.

  2. Telemedicine and remote monitoring: By implementing telemedicine and remote monitoring systems, patients and individuals with chronic illnesses can engage in medical consultations, treatments, follow-ups, and health parameter monitoring through digital channels, reducing the need for physical visits to the hospital. Furthermore, this allows for consultations with experts from different regions or countries, facilitating second opinions and improving the availability of specialized physicians. Consequently, this approach not only ensures that there are vacant beds for emergency care but also optimizes the flexibility of patient care.

  3. Automation of Processes: Hospitals can automate administrative tasks by implementing digital solutions and systems. For example, invoices can be automatically generated, and appointments can be scheduled more efficiently. Furthermore, the management and completion of work contracts and medical documents can be done electronically, while automatic data capture for inventory management and laboratory reports streamlines workflow. Additionally, these digitized processes enable interdisciplinary document exchange with other hospitals, research institutions, or universities. This allows for time and cost savings while improving efficiency and collaboration with all stakeholders in the healthcare industry.

  4. Digitization by ensuring formal requirements with the help of electronic signatures and seals: In addition to process automation, electronic signatures and seals can contribute to more efficient and timely internal administrative processes in hospitals. Instead of printing medical documents on paper, signing them, and scanning them again, all necessary signatures from doctors, hospital laboratories, and pharmacies can be done digitally. This includes the signing of medication plans and prescriptions, as well as patient-related reports. This speeds up internal approval processes for treatments or diagnoses, which can be crucial in patient emergencies. Furthermore, patients can primarily approve consent forms and directives for medical treatments with a digital signature. Electronic signatures can also promote cost efficiency by eliminating the need for printing, paper, and document shipping. Time savings are another essential aspect resulting from the use of electronic signatures. Signing and approving documents by a doctor can be expedited as the doctor's physical presence on the ward is no longer required if, for example, they are in a different location within the hospital. Another advantage of electronic signatures is their tamper-proof and traceable nature. E-signatures provide high security through their cryptographic creation, allowing for the tracking of which doctor provided treatment or diagnosis to the patient at any time. This traceability can be crucial in legal disputes between a patient and a doctor in the hospital.

For a successful integration of these digital solutions, investments in technology, training for medical staff, and adherence to data privacy and security standards are necessary. However, when implemented correctly, these measures can contribute to cost reduction, increased efficiency, and improved quality of patient care.