Quality healthcare is something many take for granted, but access to doctors and medicine in developing countries is not guaranteed. In fact, in some situations, healthcare is difficult to find.
Thanks to a public-private partnership with more than 12 years in development and more than two years in construction, children across Africa can get much-needed medical treatment at the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital (NMCH). This hospital opened last year in Johannesburg, South Africa, and T-Systems South Africa has been there all along to support the hospital’s technology needs.
For Peter Mills, head of healthcare sales and service management for T-Systems South Africa, it’s been an honor to help get the world-class hospital up and running. “One of Nelson Mandela’s legacies was to care for children in South Africa and Africa. These children wouldn’t have access to this level of care if NMCH wasn’t there,” Mills said. “It is a world-class facility with many specialists onsite that are not available in many places in this region.”
The ability to provide strong healthcare to children is critical to the economic and cultural development of Africa, said Mills. “The future of our country is children. When we talk about our future and the next generation, you must talk healthcare, vaccinations, sophisticated healthcare needs, and make sure you can treat in country,” he said. “Children that don’t have access to a lot of money still need access to these resources. They also need a hospital like NMCH that can do specialized surgery.”
Building a foundation from the ground up
T-Systems, which has a significant healthcare practice, was involved designing the hospital’s IT infrastructure from the beginning. This included a hospital information system to run multiple facets of the facility’s operations.
Because NMCH was a brand-new facility, administrators and designers could incorporate everything to make the children and their families feel more comfortable. From kid-friendly paint colors to ensuring that each of the 200 beds has access to a window view. There are also apartments where patients’ families can stay while their child is in the hospital.
It also allowed T-Systems to implement state-of-the-art technology solutions that included room for growth and innovation. This allowed the partner to work with hospital staff to implement some best business practices right away. “It is a ‘greenfield’ hospital so implementations went very well. If it was a ‘brownfield’ hospital and we were replacing an existing system it would be more difficult,” Mills said.
Improving lives, creating a brighter future for the next generation
Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital is also having a cultural impact on South Africa. The country has seen an exodus of skilled medical personnel to other countries, and Mills hopes that the new facility—and the state-of-the-art technology inside—will be enough to keep more doctors home.
“We’re losing a lot of doctors and nurses. They want the technology, such as using robotics for surgery. That’s how you attract the top orthopedic surgeons,” Mills said.
Young doctors who grew up in the mobile generation also expect hospitals to be digitized. “They don’t want to fill out forms. The more that is digitized and automated, the more valuable time they can interact with patients and the more patients they can take care of with fewer clinical workers,” Mills said. “Attracting high-quality staff is important and it’s an issue that’s not going to go away. You can make higher-quality decisions and service more patients with the best staff possible.”
To keep patient costs down, many surgeons at NMCH do pro bono work, and an association with the University of Johannesburg’s Faculty of Health Sciences provides a deep pool of medical staff as well. “Healthcare depends on technology, but it’s more than that,” Mills said. “People are passionate about it. It’s not just an IT project, there’s a tremendous human health component as well. We’re all working toward the same goal—to ensure our future and our children’s future be as bright as possible.”
For more on technology in the healthcare industry, see Memories At Your Fingertips: How Technology Can Improve Care.