How online standards management saves time and money in Upper Austria’s hospitals
Ten locations, 9,300 employees and a standards manager who, in addition to his "normal" tasks in the organisation, invests five to seven hours of his time per month: The OÖ. Gesundheits- und Spitals-AG (gespag, for short) always keeps abreast of the latest developments in standardisation with just a few mouse clicks by means of the effect services of Austrian Standards plus.
Having a market share of around 45 percent, http://www.gespag.at/gespag is Upper Austria’s biggest hospital organisation and operates eight general and two specialised hospitals.
They have to observe a high number of standards. The latest version of all these documents always has to be available. Therefore, gespag opted for the "effects" services of Austrian Standards plus.
Dipl.-HTL-Ing. Dipl.-Ing. (FH) Karl Müller is a pioneer user of these new services. Representing the owner, he is responsible for implementing projects related to building services and electrical equipment as well as catering equipment.
The aim was to manage centrally the entire body of standards and automatically receive information on new, revised or amended standard documents.
The costs involved were an important criterion for decision-making. Previously, the hospitals managed their standards independently from one another. With around 2,500 documents in total, it was difficult and time-consuming to keep up-to-date. Uncertainties and multiple purchases occurred — the latter mainly because it was impossible to transfer utilisation rights when different entities purchased the documents.
The effect services considerably simplified matters. All ten hospitals gathered under one virtual roof. Around 120 persons — executives from diverse disciplines — can access the platform and also report whether they require additional standards, and these experts are frequently able to assess these needs better than the staff at the headquarters.
The transition developed step by step. Negotiations with Austrian Standards plus Publishing on the scope and licensing conditions were followed by thorough reflections on the standards that absolutely have to be available at all hospitals.
The portfolio included approximately 1,500 standards at the start and has grown continuously ever since. In retrospect, Karl Müller says: "Implementation and initial acquisitions constituted a significant financial investment. However, you must not forget that the costs pay off later on as other cost factors are eliminated."
He is very satisfied with using the system: "It is self-explanatory. Even new users find it easy to use. Up to now, I had hardly any requests for help."
The flexible user permission system ensures that everything can be well organised and that you always have a good overview. An important aspect is the automatic update of the entire portfolio. Outdated documents belong to the past. Access to new orders is very rapid and, hence, standards can be made available to the users in next to no time. To ensure that the system really works for all users, they must have prompt access to the standard they need.
Feedback from customers like gespag is invaluable for the further development of the effect services. Karl Müller still has a few items on his wish list:
"Sometimes colleagues do not search carefully and want to order a standard that actually is already in our portfolio — a kind of alert would be helpful in such cases.
And access statistics would be important for internal controlling."
It would also make sense to get an automatic warning upon duplicate orders and, additionally, this could reduce search efforts before ordering.
Gerald Hinterberger, customer advisor at Austrian Standards, who tailors the set-up the "effects" services to each customer passed on the suggestions to the internal programmers. "Online standards management is not an off-the-shelf product. There is a basic idea that is useful for many customers, but, of course, each of them has special needs. We respond to these as far as possible. Thus, the software becomes even more user-friendly over time."
Dipl.-Pflegew. (FH) Ingrid Wimmer works in the field of quality management with a focus on patient care and manages interdisciplinary projects, such as the gespag-wide documentation project. She is one of those having access to the system and lets us have an inside view of everyday work with the effect services.
The documentation covers both IT issues and many processes of day-to-day hospital operations. Here, you have to reflect carefully on how various aspects are considered and where contents can be optimised or pooled. The needs of the maternity ward naturally differ from the requirements in trauma surgery or the care of multi-morbid geriatric patients.
Many departments of the gespag hospitals are certified under ISO 9001 and use a multitude of standards — be it in the blood analysis laboratory, be it in nuclear medicine or pathology. The task of the management is to make sure that the employees observe the standards. It takes care of implementation and for providing adequate training to everybody.
Ingrid Wimmer finds working without the effect services difficult to imagine even though teething troubles had to be overcome. She reports: "When you start to work with standards you virtually have to learn a new language. However, once you have digested the contents that, as it were, are stated at a meta level so that you understand what they have to do with your own operations, then you have won. Then, standards offer clear structures and orientation. This facilitates your work and prevents rank growth."
Ingrid Wimmer also contributes to standardisation — in the working group 250.03 "Quality management in patient care" of the committee 250 "Quality management in health care institutions" — and highly appreciates the insights gained from these activities. The management fully supports her participation. "Being involved costs money and resources, but it is absolutely necessary. It is worth it!" she says with conviction and remembers: "When you prepare working instructions it is vital to draw on existing standards or ON Rules. Of course, you sometimes think ‘That’s self-evident, I knew that anyway!’, but sometimes it is good and helpful when contents are presented in a well structured way."