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Business transformation

How one of Germany's top healthcare providers is breathing new life into IT

Article 6/12/2023 Read time: min
By: Benedikt Ernst

The University Medical Center Mainz, one of Germany’s top healthcare institutions, had a problem: its IT infrastructure could no longer keep pace with its growth.

Its on-site data center was overloaded, with neither the room nor power for extra servers or network devices. Even basic IT processes had become siloed and inefficient.

Staff—from doctors and nurses to IT personnel and researchers—had begun to voice their concerns. Basic functions, such as email access, had become daily headaches. New staff members experienced extensive onboarding delays. Meanwhile, the Center’s IT support team was struggling to keep pace with the mounting requests.

Digital transformation in healthcare has been notably slow, particularly in Europe. Healthcare providers in Europe score low on measures of digital maturity, lagging eight points behind the global industry average.1

For the Center, these challenges highlighted an urgent need for an updated IT framework, so that staff could focus on providing the best possible care for more than 350,000 patients annually. From an administrative standpoint, a transformation was also crucial for the Center to maintain its position as a top employer in Germany’s competitive healthcare sector.

This broad-sweeping IT overhaul remains a work in progress, but I believe these three early takeaways can inform other healthcare organizations embarking on similar IT enhancements.

Conduct an IT health check to form the baseline and starting point

The University Medical Center Mainz faced a challenge well known to large organizations: a complex IT landscape riddled with inefficiencies.

The Center’s IT processes had become heavily siloed. During an initial assessment, it emerged that over 100 small- to medium-sized IT projects were running simultaneously. To tackle this complexity, the Center had to rework its approach, starting by restructuring its project management framework before considering any tech upgrades.

Organizational silos are a common enemy of digital transformation efforts across industries. One of the first steps to combat such silos is through a thorough IT health check. This step allows teams to develop a targeted strategy that addresses the complexities of multi-project management, leading to smoother operations and more cost-effective outcomes.

Organizations facing similar challenges must also ensure they are incorporating relevant industry regulations and standards into their planning. At the Center, this meant aligning its digital strategy with German laws related to critical infrastructure, ensuring its transformation effort was not only effective but also compliant.

Engaging key stakeholders in the planning process is integral to designing transformations that resonate with an organization’s authentic needs and goals.

Determine top priorities and design for growth

Digital transformation in healthcare starts with identifying the fundamental changes necessary for overall growth.

For the University Medical Center Mainz, that focus was on redefining its data center strategy.

Given its complex structure of over 60 clinics, institutes and departments, it was critical for the Center to align various stakeholders’ long-term objectives with the overarching migration strategy. Engaging key stakeholders in the planning process is integral to designing transformations that resonate with an organization’s authentic needs and goals. To achieve this alignment, the Center involved a cross-section of clinics and business units to ensure their perspectives were integrated into the new plan.

Next up in this stage of the Center’s journey was to assess its data center’s current IT setup, encompassing both hardware and software elements.

Conducting workload assessments is one of the necessary evils of any transformation effort. Only by understanding their systems’ current structure can organizations effectively select the right suppliers and hyperscalers to support their new IT architecture. Once these services and providers have been selected, it’s equally important to put in place robust, third-party management tactics, such as a Service Integration and Management (SIAM) framework, to ensure seamless integration and ongoing oversight.

Avoid one-size-fits-all approaches

Digital transformation in healthcare is a high-stakes endeavor, with the imperative to keep operations uninterrupted and security uncompromised. Healthcare modernization projects therefore should stay away from the one-size-fits-all approach, opting instead for strategies customized to address their specific operational and privacy requirements.
For the University Medical Center Mainz, a smooth transition to the new data center was crucial to enable the staff to continue to work—and provide care—without any interruptions.

The Center’s workload assessment provided a greater understanding of the applications in use and their dependencies. It also revealed connections between the applications and the business processes and users they supported.

Armed with this insight, the Center pursued an application-centric migration strategy. This tailored approach and user-specific migration planning was rooted in clear communication with all stakeholders, from both an end-user and IT perspective.

This approach was instrumental in maintaining continuous service during the transition, without any unplanned downtime.

In just four weeks, between December 2020 and February 2021, the Center successfully migrated 500 virtual systems and 70 physical systems to its new data center without any unplanned outages.  

Leave room for future change

Before the University Medical Center Mainz’s data center migration, initiating IT project planning, implementing new systems and launching proof-of-concept exercises presented major challenges. The new data center and its associated upgrades not only enhances functionality but has also resulted in significant energy savings. More broadly, these steps have also laid the groundwork for future modernization efforts, paving the way for continuous innovation and the next phases of the program.

Benedikt Ernst is the Director of IT Strategy and Transformation for Kyndryl Consult Germany.

Healthcare Providers in Europe Need to Boost Digital Momentum, Boston Consulting Group, June 2021