How this hospital effectively managed the costs of adopting new technologies during COVID-19

Mr Jusup Halimi, President Director of EMC Hospital Group, explains how his organisation was able to effectively manage the costs of digitalisation, and shares the strategies they employed to optimise care quality during the pandemic.

Like the majority of healthcare providers in Indonesia, EMC Hospital Group accelerated their efforts to digitalise during the COVID-19 pandemic, to great success.

Recognising that patient and staff safety were of paramount importance during the pandemic, EMC focused on adopting technologies that would help reduce the number of physical interactions required, thus minimising the risk of infection.

Some examples of these new technologies include a teleconsultation application, online meeting tools such as Zoom, as well as an artificial intelligence (AI) system that could detect if a patient had COVID-19.

Mr Jusup Halimi, President Director of EMC Hospital Group

“During the pandemic, both our clinicians and patients were very concerned about safety. Our clinicians were worried about meeting with their patients, while our patients were hesitant to even step foot into the hospital,” Mr Jusup Halimi, President Director of EMC, told Hospital Management Asia.

“We realised that using teleconsultation was the best way to help bridge the gap in communication between our clinicians and their patients during the pandemic, and so, we adopted an application that would allow for that.

“We also used AI technology which helped our radiologists quickly and accurately detect the presence of COVID-19 on chest X-rays.

“In addition, our hospital began widely using online meeting tools like Zoom, which allowed several of our staff to work from home. We used these tools to facilitate meetings with our vendors and suppliers, as well as support EMC’s marketing activities.”

Mr Jusup added that EMC decided on the technologies to adopt based on three main foundations: government regulations, patient expectations, as well as staff and clinician requirements.

Adopting new technologies, however, can be a costly affair if not managed effectively.

That is why Mr Jusup believes it is important for hospitals to always consider the “cost effectiveness” of a particular technology before adopting it.

He elaborated: “We always do a thorough cost-effectiveness analysis for any potential new technology we are thinking of using. We even use some free technologies, but if the quality is not good enough, or if it’s not user-friendly, then we’ll pivot to using paid services and products.

“For example, we at EMC use free applications like Alibaba’s AI-based chest X-ray for COVID-19 detection, as well as as our telemedicine application.

“But we also try to maximise the use of our IT department to develop new applications. Through their innovations, our telehealth applications now allow for patients to schedule appointments, make payments, and receive their tests results electronically, on top of the usual teleconsultations with our doctors.”

Mr Jusup also shared that EMC made a special effort to strengthen their organisation’s IT capabilities during the pandemic, as he said: “We recruited several leading experts and staff for our IT department. The IT development function is then pooled at the corporate level, which assesses any approves any new technologies for the hospital.”

Despite EMC’s increased focus on digital technology, Mr Jusup revealed that they did not neglect the human aspect of being a healthcare provider.

In particular, EMC recognised that, in order to be able to provide optimal care quality and services for their patients, they had to first take good care of their staff.

“The strategy is not just to implement the right technologies to achieve optimal care quality. The most important thing is to motivate and take care of our staff, because they are the ones who are providing services to our patients during such a tiring and worrying time in healthcare,” explained Mr Jusup.

“So, we provided vitamins and free masks to all our employees, and regularly conducted swab tests so as to keep the work environment safe for them. We also gave our employees a bonus as a form of appreciation for the dedication during the pandemic.”

Now, with the COVID-19 situation in Indonesia having stabilised, and with vaccines being rolled out at a healthy rate drive – as of the end of October, a total of 67.9 million people in Indonesia are fully vaccinated – EMC is preparing themselves for the future, with plans being made to further continue the hospital’s digital transformation in the coming year.

Said Mr Jusup: “We plan to introduce a digital hospital system, which includes the implementation of new Hospital Information System, Laboratory Information System, PACS, Back Office Systems, HR Information System and Asset maintenance system.

“On the infrastructure side, we will implement cloud-based hosting servers, enlarge our internet bandwidth, server virtualisation, and improve our email system.”