Chinese Gen Hospital taps AWS for digital transformation

Published July 28, 2022, 5:06 PM

by Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

Chinese General Hospital and Medical Center (CGHMC), one of the oldest hospitals in the Philippines, has partnered with Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud for its digital transformation to improve the patient and employee experience.

In a recent virtual media event, CGHMC announced the partnership that will fully modernize the operational systems and processes of the more than century old hospital. AWS is a subsidiary of Amazon that provides on-demand cloud computing platforms and APIs to individuals, companies, and governments, on a metered pay-as-you-go basis.

Jamie Francis Dy, CGHMC vice-president for ICT and Data Privacy Officer, said that while CGHMC adopted its cloud first policy well before COVID-19, the pandemic has accelerated adoption of technology within the healthcare industry.

He noted that Healthcare organizations needed to quickly adapt to the pandemic’s disruption, driving innovation in telemedicine, digital health, medical research, and clinical care. New technologies that had previously taken years to develop were completed and launched in weeks and even days using the cloud.

With the accelerated gains made in the last two years, CGHMC harnessed this momentum of digitization to address issues beyond the pandemic, like aging populations, increasing chronic disease prevalence, and the rising cost of healthcare.

In 2018, CGHMC migrated mission critical business applications from on-premise data centers to AWS, including the Hospital Information System and SAP HANA for its financial system. But for an organization more than a century old, the transition to cloud came with its own challenges.

“When you deploy a new system it’s not a good thing because you know everybody has a way of doing things,” said Dy. “People were used to what they were doing with the system that they had even though they needed an upgrade.”

According to Dy, CGHMC came from a perspective of, “If it works, don’t touch it.” And that made it difficult to implement the new Hospital Information System (HIS) they needed to expand. Apart from a system overhaul, CGHMC also needed a culture change.

What added to the difficulty of teaching employees new technologies was CGHMC had no IT consultant back in the early 2000s. There was no one to learn the process for the hospital. “There was so much redundancy,” said Dy. In one process, say accounting or timekeeping, there would be three people double checking things. “So that’s why we really had to go all in on digital transformation,” he added. “We needed an agile, low cost, and scalable platform.”

One of Dy’s biggest requirements when deploying an HIS was integration across the entire hospital ecosystem. “What I wanted to do was to make sure there’s just one system that connects to every vendor,” he said. “Before I came on, CGHMC spent a lot on infra servers and that equipment was not fit to deploy, so there was no option. The only option that we had was to go 100% cloud.”

With AWS cloud, CGHMC was able to deploy their HIS, Accounting, SAP/HANA, and HRIS processes within six months, and on the eight month, they were able to connect it with a Document Management System. The following year, they integrated their HIS to a Laboratory Information System. At the center of it all is the HIS, connecting all systems and vendors back and forth—from admissions to discharge to ER outpatient to PhilHealth claims.

Last year, CGHMC had the lowest return to hospital rates. This is because everything is automated from the time a patient comes in. “Everything is there in the system and our database, and we connect directly to PhilHealth,” said Dy. “Right now, all our patients can see their results online, they can book their appointments on their mobile phones.”

As part of the patient portal, CGHMC is now rolling out a new system that’s connected to their HMO Concierge. That means less time spent at the hospital. Patients can now input their information and get a letter of admission from the comfort of their own homes. And then simply go to CGHMC on the date or time that they booked their appointment.

It’s not just express admissions, discharges have also been fast-tracked at CGHMC thanks to cloud. What usually took 5-10 hours, has been reduced to only 10 minutes or less. “There is no need to finalize anything because all the ancillaries are connected to one system,” said Dy. This has also led to a 60 percent improvement in employee productivity due to reduced redundancies.

What happened over the last few years during the pandemic has undoubtedly accelerated the pace of innovation, particularly in the healthcare sector. “Think about things like track and trace, think about vaccine operations, think about telemedicine and digital health all the way through to diagnostics and clinical treatments and care going forward has been fundamental in helping these customers attain that outcome,” said Eric Conrad, Regional Managing Director for the public sector across ASEAN at AWS.

Just like how CGHMC reduced discharge times and improved employee productivity, there’s been very significant impacts in the healthcare sector born from innovation due to the pandemic. According to Conrad, there is now the opportunity to “leverage what we have learned and accelerate dramatically the pace of innovation as we pivot to the new normal. It’s now time to take what we’ve learned and apply it to our missions.”

For AWS, there are three things to consider to overcome the barriers to cloud adoption in public healthcare in Asia Pacific. First is a clear data governance policy to address the diversity of the ecosystem within the healthcare environment. Second is a strict cloud first policy to move everyone in the same direction. Third is strong cloud skills training to ensure capability to bring this technology to bear, to experiment, to innovate, and to scale.