The advantages offered by enterprise resource planning (ERP) software based business solutions have been familiar to many large business owners and CIOs for over fifteen years now. ERP software solutions were first developed in the manufacturing sector to allow the streamlining and standardization of database access and software applications. Manufacturing firms required a way to integrate all of their software platforms responsible for the scheduling and transport of raw materials. Manufacturing businesses experienced a high rate of return on their ERP implementation investments. Once new systems had been installed to replace outmoded and isolated legacy systems, error rates improved, efficiency controls were tightened, communication became easier, and asset management experienced revolutionary advances. It wasn’t long before other industry sectors began seeing the advantages of ERP systems as well.
ERP business solutions are now well known and quite common in businesses ranging from energy to retail to food and beverage distribution. But what about hospital ERP systems?Hospital ERP solutions experience some obstacles to integration based on the fundamental differences between the business models of patient care and manufacturing. Hospital decision making works better without an excess of commodification and standardization, since the best outcomes arise from direct interaction between clients and healthcare providers. Hospital information managers also recognize that in a healthcare system there are as many different solutions as there are patients, and that any hospital ERP system must keep pace with rapidly evolving regulations regarding patient privacy and the effect of these regulations on data storage and control of data access. But hospital ERP software solutions can still work to integrate certain functionalities and software applications that all businesses use, such as human resource management, workload and workflow control, budgeting, accounting and administration.
ERP vendors and providers have not yet made universal inroads into the implementation of hospital ERP systems, but hospital market share is available, so migration into this territory may take place within a short period of time. Hospital ERP advocates would like to see large service providers such as Oracle, Microsoft and SAP applying more development efforts to the customization of their products in order to meet the needs of hospital software systems.
When this takes place, hospital ERP systems will be able to integrate functionalities for healthcare systems, using two and three tier architectures similar to those established for large companies in other sectors. Hospital ERP systems will allow the coordination of multiple departments and functionalities across the enterprise, streamlining scheduling, planning, data control and efficiency for a system in which lives are at stake, not just revenues. When ERP modules can be customized to meet the needs of large healthcare systems, hospitals may experience returns on the initial investment comparable to the returns seen by other industry sectors.