How does a data platform contribute to better healthcare, improved patient experiences, and more efficient healthcare work? For ZorgSaam, we – in collaboration with E-mergo – built a powerful data platform that serves as the foundation for groundbreaking healthcare innovations. With this platform based on Azure, ZorgSaam can work on data-driven decision-making, user-friendly access to information, and other data applications for sustainable healthcare, all without technical barriers.
ZorgSaam Zorggroep Zeeuws-Vlaanderen is the specialist in care for young and old in the Zeeuws-Vlaanderen region in The Netherlands. ZorgSaam offers hospital care, ambulance care, home care and elderly care. With these different services, they provide seamlessly connected care which is tailored to the needs of the patient, client or resident. The area is sparsely populated, resulting in these locations not having enough healthcare providers, so collaboration and smart integration are deeply embedded in the organisation’s mentality.
The area ZorgSaam operates in faces significant challenges due to an aging population compared to the rest of the country. Both the population and healthcare personnel in this region are relatively elderly. Thus, a considerable amount of care is needed, while the workforce is shrinking rather than growing.
“Older staff are doing physically demanding work. As a result, some locations have employee sickness rates of over 10%, even when they were already understaffed. It’s not enough to make slight improvements. If you’re a caterpillar, you need to transform into a butterfly. Real transformation, not just becoming a faster caterpillar.”Peter van den Berg, CIO of ZorgSaam
It’s obvious that the healthcare industry must undergo a transformation. ZorgSaam is already advanced in organising the collaboration between various types of care, but this needs to become even more intensive and innovative. Healthcare personnel will work in a data-driven manner, patients will receive more care at home supported by digital technology. Achieving all this requires innovation and data exchange.
“When the minister talks about data exchange, it makes my hair stand on end. Simply make the data available from your platform that is needed at that moment. And that’s the philosophy we adhere to at ZorgSaam: every employee, every specialist, and every patient should have the data necessary to make the right decisions and exhibit the right behaviours.”Peter van den Berg, CIO of ZorgSaam
The data, however, is only part of the story, according to Van Den Berg: You not only have to be data-centric, but also user-centric. Because a healthcare institution wants healthy people, and that won’t happen if you’re only focused on data. So, the question is how do you bring that data to the people? How can they use it to learn on their own, and get better health outcomes? For that, you need user-friendly access to data. But that can only happen if you have and really good data!
ZorgSaam was excited about this investment as they know that data can significantly enhance a patient’s experience, for example by assisting the doctor during conversations:
“When someone comes into the specialist’s office feeling nervous, you need to approach them differently than when telling someone they can go home or that they are healthy. In healthcare, we’re not good at that. We look at symptoms, make a diagnosis, and prescribe a treatment. With data, you have the opportunity to get a holistic view, where the system looks at averages and says: these diagnoses could be applicable based on the data. The doctor or nurse can then ask: does this apply to this person? Or is there something else going on?”Peter van den Berg, CIO of ZorgSaam
It’s a clear and forward-looking vision on data, even suggesting that Zeeland is innovating ahead of the rest of the country due to its circumstances. Van den Berg laughs: “We’re doing our best.”
To turn ZorgSaam’s vision into reality, the data had to be liberated from source systems. For this purpose, the hospital developed a data strategy. It was precisely this strategy that attracted data specialist Michel Provoost, who became the leader of ZorgSaam’s Data Ops team in 2022. Provoost joined the team at the point when ZorgSaam, Rapid Circle, and E-mergo were ready to operationalise that data strategy. Rapid Circle was already a partner of ZorgSaam, collaborating on the implementation of Teams and modern workplaces.
E-mergo joined because specific data expertise and tools were required for this project. Their experience with TimeXtender played a central role in the project plan. This tool ensured that the project wouldn’t be a lengthy, risky IT endeavor. ZorgSaam aimed to progress quickly and innovate step by step, and there was no appetite within the organisation for lengthy, complex projects. With TimeXtender, we could rapidly connect data sources in a low-code environment, making the data immediately usable.
Addressing Healthcare Challenges With Data Platform
An initial TimeXtender pilot primarily served as evidence to demonstrate the project’s significant potential to the rest of the organisation. Once we established that, we proceeded with building the data platform. This data platform was unique because it was the first time TimeXtender was used to exchange data with Chipsoft HiX. Operational data was combined with financial data to enable a wide range of use cases.
Additionally, we trained Provoost’s team in using the data platform. They embraced it with such enthusiasm that the first use case became operational within a few months. Our focus was purely on operational applications – ways to make data immediately useful in the healthcare process. This wasn’t about strategic information provision, business intelligence, or finance. Those are important, but the real challenges lie within healthcare itself.
“The collaboration went very well,” Provoost explains. “I’m an informal type. I don’t like rules and procedures. You can spend years on theory, but I just want to get the job done. I found the same attitude with Rapid and E-mergo. Just like me, they don’t want to be limited by thoughts about what can’t be done. Because there aren’t many things left that can’t be done. You just have to take small steps and not immediately embark on huge projects. With such a practical approach, we were able to embark on a learning process together.”
Improving Processes, Data-Driven Management, and Performance
The first use case was a new ‘Integrated Capacity Planning’: a set of dashboards for bed and operating room occupancy. These dashboards replaced an older system with the same function.
“In essence, we built something that already existed as our first step, however, now we can manage the data pipeline much better, from the source to the visibility in dashboards. And, most importantly, we can now rapidly add new use cases. What we’re doing now for beds and operating rooms, we can also do for outpatient clinics. There’s no technical obstacle.”Michel Provoost, Leader of ZorgSaam’s Data Ops
Thanks to these dashboards, ZorgSaam has insights into bed occupancy, expected admissions, and patients being discharged. This also provides visibility into potential capacity issues within a department. Moreover, the dashboards support performance management by offering insights into well-functioning processes and identifying further optimisation opportunities, thus alleviating the workload for healthcare providers.
Better Information = Better Care
Both healthcare and patients have benefited. A second use case was for a surgeon who mainly treats breast cancer patients:
“The surgeon’s patients regularly fill out her questionnaires, but in HiX, our EPD, it’s challenging to view multiple questionnaires side by side. With TimeXtender, we extract data from HiX and visualise it with PowerBI. We send these visualisations back to HiX. This way, the surgeon has a visual representation of answers at various moments within the patient’s medical record. One of the questions is ‘Do you have a lot of pain?’ If you see the score on such a question decreasing, you know that the indicator is improving. This enables a doctor to have more efficient conversations. No reports, no Excel, no manual work.”Michel Provoost, Leader of ZorgSaam’s Data Ops
Doctors discuss these applications with each other. This way, the organisation is gradually learning to work more data-driven. The result: other doctors inquire with Provoost about whether this could work with their questionnaires too. And it can, thanks to the data platform.
Prepared for Wegiz, Independent of Suppliers
With all data available and usable on a secure platform, ZorgSaam is well-positioned for future developments, such as the arrival of Wegiz, the Law on Data Exchange in Healthcare. The platform also makes them less dependent on their suppliers for data functionality. Provoost notes, “The approach is that we should be able to do it ourselves. Because HiX, Nedap, and AFAS have their own roadmaps. Those don’t necessarily align with our needs.”
Key Achievements for ZorgSaam as an Organisation:
- Working with data has become intuitive, allowing individuals with limited technical knowledge to quickly create valuable applications. Initial successes inspire others to come up with ideas, spreading data-driven work throughout the organisation.
- Use cases go live much faster, delivering value in the operational process quickly. This is mainly because data from different sources now reside in one place and can be easily combined.
- The ‘Excel landscape’ is fading away. There’s now a single source of truth. “You can choose which data to use for each use case,” says Provoost. “But ultimately, everyone is discussing the same data. This ends many discussions.”
- The data platform ensures data monitoring and complete data lineage. If the team detects an issue with the data, they can immediately see where the deviation originates.
- Cost savings, as the need for point solutions and connections facilitating specific data applications is eliminated.
- Sharing data securely and controlled with external organisations has become much easier.
Real-time dashboards, AI, RPA, sensors: ZorgSaam looks ahead
Extracting data from a healthcare institution’s core systems isn’t a straightforward task, especially considering security, privacy, and compliance are top priorities. Yet, ZorgSaam has made significant progress in this area and can quickly respond to organisational inquiries. The next step involves new quality dashboards.
“We used to do this ourselves without E-mergo. We exported data from HiX using a report generator to Excel and combined it with data from other source systems like Zenya. This made reports available once a month. We’re now consolidating this into TimeXtender, so we can refresh data at any time and give the dashboards a more real-time character.”Michel Provoost, Leader of ZorgSaam’s Data Ops
Other future possibilities on ZorgSaam’s agenda include predicting bed occupancy using AI from Azure, utilising RPA to reduce administrative burdens, and improving regional collaboration by connecting the data platform to platforms from other healthcare institutions.
The possibilities don’t end there: ZorgSaam is also exploring regional collaboration, wearables, using sensor data for preventive care, and providing care at home rather than in the hospital. In Zeeland, the future of healthcare has begun.