Software as a Service (SaaS) is increasingly being talked about as a possible alternative to internal operation. Customers can utilize certain applications for a fee. There are also meaningful scenarios for healthcare. These are particularly interesting because they offer an answer to the rising shortage of skilled workers and the complexity of IT systems, which are difficult to master.
In view of IT budgetary constraints in hospitals, there is a growing demand for other financing options for high-quality business software. The SaaS model offers one possibility, as the project costs are limited to the initial installation, i.e. the provision of services. In addition, follow-up costs such as support, release changes, infrastructure and data backup considerations are handled as part of a fixed fee for the SaaS provider. The provider of the SaaS solution takes care of additional infrastructural resources and the provision of the necessary expertise to operate the increasingly complex IT environments. This relieves the burden on operational enterprises, such as hospitals, in several ways.
Using cross-sectoral networking as a service
With regard to cross-sectoral networking, SaaS is certainly an interesting option, especially for smaller hospitals. The restrictive data protection structure of the IHE* standard allows multiple separate affinity domains to be set up in an external data center. This means that the SaaS provider, as the operator of the IHE technology, provides the customer with the know-how. However, responsibility and control over the affinity domain rest with the hospital. Consequently, the topic of cross-sectoral communication becomes available as a service via the SaaS package.
Data protection must be guaranteed
The use of SaaS services is variable: from individual small software applications, such as duty roster software, to archive and ECM systems, through to the "loan" of an entire HIS or PACS system. All the hospital requires is a secure Internet connection.
However, if core systems such as the HIS or archive are located outside the hospital, special attention must be paid to compliance with data protection and legal framework conditions. The outsourcing of data to an external provider is always associated with the storage of information at the service provider's site. Most legal specifications stipulate that information must be strictly encrypted down to database level in order to prevent internal access to the database by a service provider. In the run-up to a SaaS project it must always be carefully checked which legal requirements have to be taken into account for a particular location.
Long-term contracts secure corporate planning
Since hiring external services is always associated with a certain loss of control and the formation of dependencies, it is also important for hospitals to seek reliable service providers. Long-term contracts with fixed conditions secure the corporate planning of the institutions wishing to make use of such a service. Contracts with well-negotiated terms can generate savings of several hundred thousand euros in software licenses, infrastructure and, above all, personnel costs in the long term. Therefore, despite legal regulations, it is interesting for hospitals to consider SaaS models for IT systems, thereby achieving savings in their own resources.
*Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise (IHE) is an initiative by healthcare professionals and industry to improve the way computer systems in healthcare share information.