Hello Meliha and Ralf! Thank you for taking the time to talk to us. At ARCUS Kliniken und Praxen, digitalisation is taking place on multiple levels.
What measures have you already implemented?
Ralf: We started digitalising our processes some time ago. A digital invoice verification process was introduced, and then in HR we digitalised the job application portal, as well as the time recording, vacation request, and payroll accounting processes. But we also wanted to implement measures that would provide our patients with tangible benefits. That’s why we got together with inovex to digitalise the consultation and surgery scheduling processes, for which we created the myARCUS patient portal and our internal appointment and resource management tool ARCUSflow. Patients can now schedule their consultations and/or surgical appointments from home and complete their medical history questionnaires online before their arrival.
Meliha: During our work together, we’ve also focused more intensively on the patient journey. In future, we want patients to be able to use certain self-service features from home and to be able to navigate flexibly around the organisation. Our goal is to create an optimised patient experience with reduced waiting times, more flexible stations, and greater flexibility in terms of appointment time and location.
How have you gone about this?
Ralf: We’re in close contact with the specialised departments, and we use processes like user shadowing to get an even clearer understanding of the features they really need. We also use e-mail newsletters to present new options and changes.
Along with Daniel Kunay, our Technical Product Owner, I’m in constant contact with the departments and always available. Our goal is to develop functions which make work easier and to ensure that we are all focused on the patient journey.
Meliha: On one hand, our main task was to provide technical support during this process by setting up a stable system. On the other, we also helped organise the agile workflows and assisted during the product discovery phase.
We helped ARCUS to develop their products in a more targeted manner and to gear them to the needs of their users. Ralf and Daniel worked very actively on the vision and defined what digital ARCUS actually is. This was also the point in the project where it became strongly aligned with the patient journey. We wanted to discover how we could model the digital patient journey.
Why did you ultimately decide to align with the patient journey?
Ralf: We came to a point where we said, “If the patients can find their way around the system, the employees can do the same. We don’t need to apply two different standards here.”
In dealing with patients, we’ve had to merge our specialisations to a certain extent. For example, all departments can make an appointment for surgery, rather than having to refer patients to a different specialist department. This saves a lot of time and effort. Formerly complex activities are now easier. For us, this realisation was really central to the overall handling of the project.
How has this realignment changed your work within IT?
Ralf: Thanks to our work with inovex, our well-running IT department has become an even better-running one. We traditionally took a project-based approach, in which we bought a piece of software and then implemented it. Thanks to inovex, we’re now much more oriented towards the requirements of the overarching business processes. This means that we’re using agile processes to create, step by step, a “digital ARCUS”, which provides patients with a wide variety of services via myARCUS. We’re also doing our own development, working with a Kanban board and using agile methods such as refinements and retrospectives, which help us in continuously developing our team and our work. We’ve learned a lot from inovex in these areas.
IT are enablers for the automation of the processes in our clinical departments. The collaboration is going extremely well, and it’s a lot of fun to work like this.
Since the development of ARCUSflow is now very advanced, we now have a great many opportunities, both for our patients and for ourselves, to align all our processes with the patient journey. Here, technical innovation has definitely overtaken the organisation. Our task now is to work with the specialist departments to leverage the full potential of the solutions.
Who are the biggest beneficiaries of the changes at ARCUS?
Ralf: Digitalisation basically benefits the entire organisation. Using ARCUSflow every day has enabled the specialised departments to see the possibilities the new software offers for their processes and procedures. The organisation is currently undergoing a complex change, which will make things easier for the entire ARCUS organisation in the medium term.
Meliha: One of the biggest advantages ist probably the new system. in which all information is collected centrally. Previously, a lot of organisation was done using Excel spreadsheets, which passed through many different hands and were constantly being modified. Now, all the employees enter information in ARCUSflow. This eliminates sources of error and lengthy back-and-forths.
One challenge was – and partly still is – definitely the large amount of implicit knowledge available in the specialist departments. We are still working on leveraging this knowledge and on transferring it to the systems. This should make it easier for the specialist departments to train new personnel. The system makes formerly complex processes simple. The processes are supported by help texts, explanatory texts, and icons, which we’re integrating in order to explicitly represent implicit departmental knowledge.
Changes in existing processes can lead to uncertainty among employees. How do you counteract this?
Ralf: We’re constantly working on that. We inform, coach, show, ask …
Meliha: … we watch, we learn how employees work, we support.
Ralf: We’re now entering a phase in which the specialist departments need time to get together to rethink and implement their processes.
Meliha: We’re constantly making progress. Aligning ourselves with the patient journey means that we’re increasingly removing departmental boundaries. This enables the various departments to reposition and realign themselves.
Ralf: We’re giving the various specialist departments the opportunity to get even more involved. We want to promote team-building to enable them to communicate more with one another.
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself before kick-starting the digitalisation project?
Ralf: It’s tremendously important to plan time for organisational changes right from the start. Balance is important here: you have to trust the specialist departments to do things independently, while at the same time promoting constant and holistic development.
Meliha: It’s less about managing appointments and resources and more about enabling patients to have a more flexible, self-determined journey. This has a much greater impact than digitalising individual processes. To use a truism: digitalisation is not an IT project. Continuous changes, especially organisational changes, are an integral part of agile projects. You have to take that into account.
What are your digitalisation plans for the future?
Ralf: As I said, our top priority is to ensure that the organisation aligns itself with the patient journey.
We’re also working with the Fraunhofer Institute to evaluate AI use cases so that we can make even better use of the data from ARCUSflow. We want to develop performance metrics and measure how effectively we care for patients.
There are also digitalisation projects which are required by the German Hospital Future Act (KHZG): telematics infrastructure, electronic patient files, the digital ward rounds …
We’re also supervising student projects which are further advancing ARCUSflow and optimising things like waiting time management.
Meliha: We will, of course, continue to provide support – especially in the development of the digital patient portal with regard to the KHZG. Another idea we have is to use mathematical optimisation to improve bed occupancy, taking into account both patients’ and doctors’ needs. In any case, we’ll continue to accompany the digitalisation process both technologically and methodically and to use workshops to develop new ideas.
Ralf: We’re looking forward to inovex’s support in implementing new features into our organisation and to our continued collaboration.
Thank you very much for the interview!