ORGANIZATION: AsklepiosGroup, www.asklepios.com
VENDOR OR SOLUTION PROVIDER OF CHOICE: SyynX, www.syynx.de
Asklepios Goes Global
Founded in 1984, the Asklepios Group has become the largest clinical operator in Germany, with a significant global healthcare portfolio including six clinics in the U.S. With the partial privatization of LBK Hamburg in 2004, Asklepios became the largest German clinical operator, according to its own data.
The group currently generates €2.3 billion in turnover. It has about 32,000 employees, 21,000 beds, and 92 medical facilities providing care for acute and subacute medical conditions in Germany. In 2004, together with LBK Hamburg, the Asklepios Group took a stake in another large healthcare organization in Europe with seven hospitals and more than 20 subsidiaries.
The Asklepios Group saw a need to respond to recommended changes to the German healthcare system outlined in PricewaterhouseCoopers’s 1999 "HealthCast 2010" report, which identified clear weaknesses in communications for professionals, patients, and caregivers. According to the report, the German healthcare system requires significantly closer cooperation among practitioners, more intensive communications, and better cross-institutional knowledge transfer. For a private hospital group such asAsklepios, these criteria are the relevant factors in remaining competitive with state-of-the-art healthcare support systems.
As a cross-regional healthcare operator, the Asklepios Group can sometimes struggle to share its knowledge across a variety of locations. In all its clinics, the quality of patient care depends on its employees’ knowledge and experience. However, as doctors become more highly specialized, it can often be imperative that an on-duty doctor be able to search and access information across a breadth of specialties quickly and efficiently.
According to Uwe Pöttgen, head of central IT services for the Asklepios Group, "Asklepios faces the same challenge as all clinics. It has access to a network of specialists working across the whole country, but without them necessarily forming a community."
In light of the report, Asklepios started looking for a solution to make professional information, past experience with patients and their disease patterns, and treatment methods quickly available to doctors. The solution needed to be capable of integration into the Future Hospital Programme, which involves a partnership between Asklepios, Intel, and Microsoft.
A Search for the Cure
Project partners were confronted with the question of how to support doctors with virtual-knowledge services when treating patients. At the Asklepios Barmbek Clinic in Hamburg, Germany, the eHealth Interoperability Platform, based on SharePoint Portal Server, was already functioning as the central IT environment on which all applications connected with clinical knowledge were to be based.
In addition to enhancing the efficiency of treatment processes and reducing costs, the Asklepios group hoped to improve patient care. To achieve this goal, the group needed to make maintaining and searching vast amounts of information a quick, efficient process. So the company teamed up with Microsoft partner SyynX to implement a knowledge and skills management system for its hospitals integrated with the eHealth Interoperability Platform (eHIP), which would allow all users to search for the information they needed.
Prior to the implementation of Asklepios Knowledge Guide, it was very difficult for doctors and researchers across the system to know who the experts were for a given disease or subject area, and to see how their peers were treating patients with similar diseases. Once the Asklepios Knowledge Guide was implemented, they were able to search and access information regarding internal expertise and external knowledge.
To accomplish this, SyynX, a specialist in text mining and text- mining-based applications for medicine and life sciences, developed a solution for the automated, software-based content analysis of medical and scientific text documents based on the Collexis Fingerprint Core Engine. SyynX also developed a complex knowledge and skills management suite based on Microsoft technologies and the Collexis Fingerprint Engine. It can access and search for central knowledge services or scientific publications and provide health professionals with information push services.
The system can be made available as a web application or on the intranet. It can also be produced using the Microsoft .NET Framework and Web Parts, which is designed to ensure users access to the SyynX information system through the portal. The SyynX Solutions deployment for Asklepios uses an interlocking stack of Microsoft technologies: Microsoft Office SharePointServer 2007 for the collaboration functions and shared spaces, Windows Server2003 for the operating system, and Microsoft SQL Server 2005 for the database.
Profiling a Solution
In the project’s first phase, SyynX used the analysis of publications and documents, as well as fingerprint technology to draw up expert profiles for all doctors working in the Asklepios Group. SyynX used the Collexis Fingerprint engine to analyze publications and documents, in order to draw up the expert profiles for all doctors. The group uses these profiles for external presentation of their skills on the internet. Internally they are valuable for creating a map of medical knowledge, which is called upon by doctors in different departments.
For the second phase in the project, SyynX designed a virtual reference book in SharePoint Portal Server. The Asklepios Group Knowledge Guide functions as a guide to who knows what—employees can search and draw on the experience of a colleague for advice on a disease, diagnosis, or therapy within a matter of seconds. At the same time, doctors can also consult skill profiles for whole departments or particular locations.
Jörg Weidenhammer, managing director at LBK Hamburg, says,"Our treatment results in patient care depend directly on the experience baseof our doctors. Augmenting and developing this wealth of knowledge is, therefore, of central significance to Asklepios."
In the next stage, the clinic opened an online library that provides Asklepios employees with access to external resources without needing to initiate time-consuming procedures to obtain them. The online library is also being created digitally as a SharePoint Portal Web Part, offering users strategically linked external and internal knowledge.
Through the online library, doctors can search and receive medical journals, ebooks, and news. An added advantage of the Collexis Fingerprint Core Engine is the linking of internal skills with external knowledge resources. If Asklepios employees call up an article from a medical journal, for example, they will automatically be shown details of colleagues who have skills related to the article. For direct contact with a specialist, they need only dial the corresponding telephone number or send an email.
Finally, the SyynX Clinical Consult application offers doctors the information push service, which provides them with appropriate professional articles and guidelines for the patient currently receiving treatment. The system simultaneously makes suggestions for refined searches that the doctor can use to adapt to the results of that particular patient’s condition. The medication prescribed to the patient can be added with a mouseclick, and the system then delivers the specific expert information for the product’s composition.
Searching with Medical Precision
The search and knowledge management system also helps to strengthen cooperation with general practitioners (GPs). The Asklepios clinics can make areas of their applications available to external partners through their doctors’ portals. Pöttgen says: "Up to now, we weren’t even able to exchange master data on patients with their GPs on a compatible and seamless basis."
By converting to the Health Interoperability Platform, GPsnow use the Asklepios Group’s central services through the doctors’ portals and, following authentication, can access the data produced inside the clinic.
People able to identify themselves with PIN and PKI smartcard codes will, for instance, receive the examination results for their patients. Doctors working alongside Asklepios can enjoy virtual knowledge services in the form of the Clinical Consult solution and the online library.
Contributing doctors receive relevant guidelines and professional articles they have searched for as well as information about their own patients through SyynX Clinical Consult. At the same time, partners can access parts of the Asklepios online library and, for no charge, use the professional publications available worldwide in full text. "The system helps doctors provide the requisite medical quality and offers additional service, particularly to GPs," says Pöttgen.
SyynX has worked out so well for Asklepios that they hope to expand its use in the future. The group would like to handle hospitalization procedures using the system along with its partners. There are plans for a second opinion service enabling the exchange of data between doctors through SharePoint Portal Server. They can learn what a colleague thinks of laboratory diagnostic findings, ECG results, or radiography results.
About the Author
Christian Herzog, M.D., executive vice president and general manager for Life Sciences, is responsible for the Collexis Life Sciences business and global sales organization. He is a medical doctor with an economics degree from the Witten/Herdecke University in Germany. After holding various managerial positions in different consulting companies focused on healthcare and the life science industry, Christian joined SyynX as a shareholder and CEO in 2005, until the acquisition of the company. Christian has co-authored three books and several scientific papers.