‘HIPS’ project that better aligns patients, resources and information flows in care institutions to each other wins Agoria eHealth Award

Consortium of Flemish companies, hospitals and academics develops methodology that can help care institutions save up to 30% of their supply-chain costs.

The iMinds ‘HIPS’ project is the proud winner of the Agoria eHealth Award in the category of ‘best ICT project that improves quality systems and optimizes processes’. HIPS studied how the information flows and resources in a hospital (staff, infrastructure and medical supplies) can be better aligned to patients’ care paths; the processes in the area of hip surgery were chosen as a concrete application. After its two-year research, the consortium of Flemish companies (Amaron, Aucxis and H.Essers), the hospitals AZ Maria Middelares (Ghent) and AZ Nikolaas (Sint-Niklaas) and a number of academic partners presented a methodology that can help care institutions realize supply chain savings of up to 30%.. This is achieved by recording use (and consumption) of medical supplies during an operation in a semi-automated way – through RFID tags and visual-recognition technology.

The annual Agoria eHealth Awards recognize the best ICT projects in the health sector; projects that contribute to administrative simplification and better care – and that also put innovation and good cooperation between the industry and care operators first. According to the jury, the HIPS project scores highly on all these criteria; good reason to give the consortium of companies, hospitals and academics the award in the category of ‘best ICT project that improves quality systems and optimizes processes’.

“Hospitals form a complex environment in which a lot of resources and information flows need to be aligned to each other in order to ensure that the right (and sufficient) resources are available in the right places; and there are a lot of opportunities for optimization here,” says Elisabeth Reusens from the AZ Maria Middelares hospital in Ghent. “We in fact discovered that preparing an operating theatre for a hip operation is sometimes dependent on more than ten different processes.”

“On the basis of these findings, we concluded that there is indeed a lot of room for optimization – especially with regard to the traceability and restocking of medical supplies. Today, stock management is still largely based on manual counts,” adds Jan Van Ooteghem, HIPS research manager. “We therefore developed a methodology that uses various technologies (such as RFID tags and visual-recognition technology) to be able to monitor use and consumption of supplies in an operating theatre – in a semi-automatic way and down to the smallest detail."

And with success: simulations have shown that the investment in the HIPS methodology can be easily earned back through no longer needing to carry out manual counts. In other words: the more supplies you can tag, the better the traceability of these and the more efficient the hospital operations. In this way, care institutions can save up to 30% of their supply-chain costs.

For project partner H.Essers, a Belgian company with extensive expertise in supply-chain management that among other things managed the HIPS project, the information and resource streams are an important part of the supply chain.

“Supply-chain management should create significant added value for the care institutions and healthcare in general in the future. It means thinking and acting on the basis of a network and taking into account all players within that network,” says Jan Lampaert, Strategic Manager Healthcare, H.Essers.

But it’s not only the project results – and their potential – that are notable. The first concrete steps with regard to valorization have now been taken. The two hospitals have gone through a major learning curve: they have been able to familiarize themselves with a number of new technologies, and have obtained valuable insights with regard to stock-management inefficiencies.

“The HIPS project has also led to a close cooperation between Amaron and Aucxis – more specifically between our Workflower and R-Connect products – which has resulted in accelerated growth. Together with H.Essers we have undoubtedly laid the foundation for a very strong commercial product that we are currently developing further; a product that we will add to our standard product portfolios and will definitely offer to our customers in the hospital ecosystem,” concludes Patrick Catthoor from Aucxis.

About the HIPS project

HIPS – a research project within iMinds’ ICON program – brought together two hospitals (AZ Maria Middelares in Ghent and AZ Nikolaas in Sint-Niklaas) and academic researchers (from Ghent University, iMinds - Ghent University and iMinds - VUB) with a number of industry partners who saw a major opportunity in the development of solutions to optimize hospital operations and activities. H.Essers is specialized in supply-chain management; Amaron focuses on the automation of workflows and IT integration in the care sector; and Aucxis works on solutions for automation and IT integration based on ‘track-and-trace’ radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology. The HIPS project was co-financed by iMinds and received project support from Flanders Innovation & Entrepreneurship.