Wednesday, February 21, 2018

A tale of two hospitals—How healthcare economics in Belgium hastens need for new IT buying schemes

The next BriefingsDirect data center financing agility interview explores how two Belgian hospitals are adjusting to dynamic healthcare economics to better compete and cooperate.
We will now explore how a regional hospital seeking efficiency -- and a teaching hospital seeking performance -- are meeting their unique requirements thanks to modern IT architectures and innovative IT buying methods.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app. Read a full transcript or download a copy.

Here to help us understand the multilevel benefits of the new economics of composable infrastructure and software defined data center (SDDC) in the fast-changing healthcare field are Filip Hens, Infrastructure Manager at UZA Hospital in Antwerp, and Kim Buts, Infrastructure Manager at Imelda Hospital in Bonheiden, both in Belgium.The discussion is moderated by Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Here are some excerpts:

Gardner: What are the top trends disrupting the healthcare industry in Belgium? Filip, why do things need to change? Why do you need to have better IT infrastructure?

Hens: That’s a good question. There are many up-and-coming trends. One is new regulations around governance, which is quite important. Due to these new rules, we are working more closely together with other hospitals to share more data, and therefore need better data security. This is one of the main reasons that we need to change.


In Belgium, we have many hospitals, with some of them only a few kilometers apart. Yet there have been very few interactions between them.

New demands around augmentation of services means patient data are a growing concern. So it’s not only the needs of new governance but also the demand for providing better medical services across hospitals.

Gardner: Kim, how are the economics of healthcare -- of doing more with less -- an ongoing requirement? How are you able to conserve on the costs?

Buts: We are trying to do everything we can across the financial possibilities. We are constantly looking for good solutions that are affordable. The obligation to work in a [hospital] cluster provides us with a lot of new challenges.

A major challenge for us was around security. We have invested hugely in security. Many of the new applications are now shared across the hospital cluster. So we chose to take on the role of innovator. And to continue innovating, we have to spend a lot of money. That was not foreseen in the annual budget. So we took advantage of Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s (HPE’s) new financial services approaches, to make things happen much faster than usual.
How HPE Digital Solutions
Support Healthcare
And Life Sciences
Gardner: We’ll get back to some of those services, but I’d like to help our readers and listeners better understand this interesting combination of needing to compete -- that is to attract patients -- but at the same time cooperate and share data across hospital cluster. Filip, tell us about UZA and how you’re unique compared to a regional hospital. What makes you different?

Sharing is caring, and saving

Hens: Our main focus remains patient care, but for us it is not necessarily general medicine. It is more the specialist cases, for such things as specialized surgery. That is our main goal. Also we are a teaching hospital, so we have an emphasis on learning from patients and from patient data.

Gardner: You have unique IT and big data requirements from your researchers. You have more of an intense research and development environment, and that comes with a different set of IT requirements?

Hens: Yes, and that is very important. We are more demanding of the quality of the data, the need to gather more information, and to provide our researchers a better infrastructure platform.

That is one difference between a general hospital and a university hospital. A teaching facility has more complex patient analytics requirements, the need for complex data mining and stuff like that.

Gardner: Kim, how are you in your healthcare cluster now able to share and cooperate? What is it that you’re sharing, and how do you that securely to creating better healthcare outcomes?

Buts: A big difference for us is financial. Since we are a smaller hospital, we must offer a very broad portfolio of treatments. That means we need to have a lot of patients to then have enough income to survive. The broad offering, that portfolio of treatments, also means we are going to need to work more together with the other cluster members.

We are now trying to buy new IT equipment together, because we cannot afford to each buy for every kind of surgery, or for every kind of treatment. So we have combined our budgets together and we are hosting different things in our hospital that are then used by the other cluster members, too.

Financially, due to the regulations, we have less income than a university hospital. The benefits of education funding do not get to us. We only get income from patients, and that is why we need to have a broad portfolio.

Hens: Unlike a general hospital, we have income from the government and we also have an income flow from scientific research. It is huge funding; it is a huge amount. That is really what makes us different. That is why we need to use all of that data, to elaborate on scientific research from the data.

If not an advantage, it is an extra benefit that we have as university hospital. In the end, it is very important in that we maintain and add extra business functionality via an updated IT infrastructure. 
If we maintain those clusters well -- the general hospitals together with university hospitals -- then those clusters can share among themselves how to best meet patient needs, and concentrate on using the sparest amount of the budget.

Robust research, record keeping, required

Gardner: You are therefore both trying to grapple with the use and sharing of electronic medical records (EMR) applications. Are you both upgrading to using a different system? How are you going about the difficult task of improving and modernizing EMR?

Buts: One big difference between our hospitals is our doctors; they are working for the hospital on a self-employed basis at Imelda. They are not employees of the hospital as at UZA. The demands of our doctors are therefore very high, so we have to improve all of our facilities -- and our computer storage systems -- very fast.

We try to innovate for the doctors, so we have to spend a lot of money on innovation. That is a big difference, I think, between the university hospitals because the doctors are employees there.

Gardner: How does that impact your use of EMR systems?
How HPE Digital Solutions
Support Healthcare
And Life Sciences
Buts: We are in the process of changing. We are looking for a new EMR system. We are discussing and we are choosing, but the demands of the doctors are sometimes different from the demands of the general hospital management.

Gardner: Filip, EMR, is that something you are grappling with, too?

Hens: We did the same evaluations and we have already chosen a new EMR. For us, implementing an EMR is now all about consolidation of a very scattered data landscape, of moving toward a centralized organization, and of centralizing databases for sharing and optimization of that data.

There is some pressure between what physicians want and what we as IT can deliver with the EMR. Let’s just say it is an opportunity. It is an opportunity to understand each other better, to know why they have high demands, and why we have other demands.

That comparison between the physicians and us IT guys makes it a challenging landscape. We are busier with the business side and with full IT solutions, rather than just implementing something.

It is not just about implementing something new, but adaptation of a new structure of people. Our people rethink how everybody’s role is changing in the hospital, and what is needed for interaction with everybody. So, we are in the process of that transformation.

Gardner: What is it about the underlying IT infrastructure that is going to support the agility needed to solve both of your sets of problems, even though they are somewhat different?

Filip, tell us about what you have chosen for infrastructure and why composable infrastructure helps solve many these business-level challenges.

Composable confidence

Hens: That is a good question, because choosing a solution is not like going to the supermarket and just buy something. It is a complex process. We still have separation of data storage and computing power.

We still separate that kind of stuff because we want to concentrate on the things that really bring added value, and that are also trustworthy. For us, that means virtualization on the server and network platforms, to make it more composable.

A more software-defined and composable approach will make us more independent from the underlying hardware. We have chosen for our data center the HPE Synergy platform. In our opinion, we are ready because after many years as an HPE customer -- it just works.
For me, knowing that something is working is very important, but understanding the pitfalls of a project is even more important.

And for me, knowing that something is working is very important, but understanding the pitfalls of a project is even more important. For me, the open discussion that you can have with HPE about those pitfalls, of how to prepare for them and how to adapt your people to know what’s to come in the future -- that is all very important.

It’s not only a decision about the metal, but also about what are the weaknesses in the metal and how we can overcome that -- that is why we stick with HPE, because we have a good relationship.

Gardner: Kim, what are you doing to modernize, but also innovate around those all-important economic questions? How are you using pay-as-you-go models to afford more complex technology, and to give you advancement in serving your customers?

One-stop shopping

Buts: The obligations of the new hospital-cluster regulations had a huge impact on our IT infrastructure. We had to modernize. We needed more compute power and more storage. When we began calculating, it showed us that replacing all of the hard drives at one time was the best option, instead of spreading it over the next three to four years.

Also the new workload demands on the infrastructure meant we needed to replace it as fast as possible, but the budget was not available at our hospitals. So HPE Financial Services provided us with a solution that meant we could replace all our equipment with very short notice. We exchanged servers, storage, and our complete network, including our Wi-Fi network.

So we actually started with a completely brand new data center thanks to the financial services of HPE.

Gardner: How does that financing work? Is that a pay-as-you-go, or are payments spread over time?

Buts: It’s spread over the coming five years. That was the only solution that was good for us. We could not afford to do it any other way.

Gardner: So that is more like an operating costs budget than an upfront capital outlays budget?
We actually started with a completely brand new data center thanks to the financial services of HPE. We could not afford to do it any other way.

Buts: Yes, and the other thing we wanted to do was do everything with HPE -- because they could offer us a complete range of servers, storage, and Wi-Fi networking. That way we could reduce the complexity of all our work, and it guaranteed us a fast return on the investment.

Gardner: It is all more integrated, upfront.

Buts: Yes, that is correct.

Gardner: At UZA, what are you doing to even further modernize your infrastructure to accommodate more data, research, sharing, and security?

Hens: It is not about what I want to deliver; it is about what the business wants that we can deliver, and what we can together deliver to the hospital. So, for me, the next step is the EMR program.

So, implementing the EMR, looking for the outcomes from it, and offering something better to end-users. Then those outcomes can be used to further modernize the infrastructure.

That for me is the key. I will not necessarily say that we will buy more HPE Synergy. For me, the key to the process, as I just described, that is what will set the margins of what we will need.

Gardner: Kim, now that you have a new data center, where do you take it next in terms of people, process or even added technology efficiencies? Improved data and analytics, perhaps?

Cloud in the Cluster?

Buts: That is a difficult one because the cluster is very new for us. We are still looking at good ways to incorporate and decide where the data is going to be placed, and what services are going to be required.

It is still brand new for us, and we have to find a good way to incorporate it all with the different hospital cluster members. A big issue is how are we going to exchange the critical patient data, and how we are going to store it safely and securely.

Gardner: Is cloud computing going to be a part of that?

Buts: I do not know. Everything is “cloud” now so, maybe. I am not a huge fan of public cloud. If you can stay in a private cloud, yeah, then okay. But public cloud, I do not know. In a hospital, regulations are so strong and the demands are so high.

Gardner: Maybe a shared private cloud environment of some sort?

Buts: Yeah. I think that could be a good solution.
How HPE Digital Solutions
Support Healthcare
And Life Sciences
Hens: For public cloud in general, I think that is a no-go. But what we are doing already with our EMR, we can work together with a couple of hospitals and we can choose to build a private cloud at one of the sites at our hospitals.

You do not need to define it as a cloud. Really, it’s like public Internet cloud, but you have to make your IT cloud-aware and cloud-defined inside the walls of your hospital. That is the first track you need to take.

Buts: That is why in our hospital cluster, we chose to host a lot of new applications on the new hardware. It gave us the ability to learn and adapt quickly to the new innovations. And for the other hospitals, we are now becoming a kind of service provider to them. That was for us a big change, because now we are more a service level agreements (SLA)-driven organization than we used to be.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app. Read a full transcript or download a copy. Sponsor: Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Retail gets a makeover thanks to data-driven insights, edge computing, and revamped user experiences

The next BriefingsDirect Voice of the Customer vertical industry disruption solutions interview explores how intelligence, edge computing, and a rethinking of the user experience come together to give retailers a business-boosting makeover.

We’ll now learn how Deloitte and Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) are helping traditional retailers -- as well as hospitality organizations and restaurants -- provide a more consistent, convenient, and contiguous user experience across their businesses.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes. Get the mobile app. Read a full transcript or download a copy.
Here to help to define the new digitally enhanced retail experience are Kalyan Garimella, IoT Manager at Deloitte Consulting, and Jeff Carlat, Senior Director of Technology Solutions at HPE. The interview is moderated by Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Here are some excerpts:

Gardner: Jeff, what are the top trends now driving the amazing changes in retail?

Carlat: First off, I want to clear the air. Retail is not dead. Everywhere I go I hear that the retailer is dead, no more brick and mortar. It's a fallacy. There is a retail apocalypse out there, but quite honestly 85 to 90 percent of purchases still go through the brick-and-mortar retailer.

The retail apocalypse does apply to brick-and-mortar stores that are failing to transform to fully embrace the digitalization  expected by consumers today. We are here to do something about it.

Gardner: Kalyan, user experiences have always been important. You can go back to Selfridges in London more than 100 years ago. People understand the importance of user experience. What's different now in the digital age? 

Garimella: Unfortunately, if you think about it, going back for the past four decades, retailers have relied on brand names and the strength of the merchandise to attract more customers. They never really differentiated themselves from the experiences that they were creating versus what their competitors were creating.

With the advent of changing customer demographics -- with Millennials, Gen Ys, Gen Xs coming into the picture -- retailers now need to produce a more customized shopping experience. They need to give shoppers a reason to escape their online retail channels, to come to brick-and-mortar shops and make more purchases there. It’s high time we give that to them -- and make them come back to the stores.

Gardner: There are still things in the physical world that need to remain in the physical world, right, Jeff?

Virtual-real hybrid

Carlat: Exactly right! Take me, for example. We recently bought a new house and I wanted to get a nice La-Z-Boy chair. I’m the kind of guy who’s not going to just push a button on a computer or a handheld to buy a new chair. I’m going to want to go sit in it. I want to know is this right for me, and so I go to a traditional brick-and-mortar outlet.
How HPE and Deloitte
Align IT
With Business Strategies
Yes, I may do my research [online]. I may actually end up [online] doing my purchase and having it shipped directly to my home. But while I’m at the store, I want to have an experience -- an immersive experience -- that's going to help suggest to me, “Oh what's the perfect side table that should go with that? What’s the complementary piece of art that actually matches the fabric?”

I want the capability to know what that chair will look like in my own decor, via virtually imposing that chair into my environment. That's where the world is going. Those are the demands of the new retail environment, and they will separate those that continue to thrive in the retail environment from those that suffer and decline.

Gardner: And, of course, the people in that physical environment might actually know quite a bit about the purchase that you could gain from. They have been doing this for some time. There is the interaction of a consultancy effect when you are in a sales environment.

Garimella: People are always going to be a key asset no matter where we do it and in whichever industry. If we can complement the existing user knowledge that exists in the retail stores with the intelligence, or analytics and data that go along with it -- that's a powerful combo. We want to provide that. 

That's why we are talking about helping brick and mortars attract more customers -- not just by increasing the customer experience and optimizing your digital store operations -- by combining data and insights, and not relying only on opinions.

Gardner: Is that what we mean by cross-channel experiences, Jeff?

Easy as 1-2-3

Carlat: We, together with Deloitte, are delivering in early 2018 the Connected Consumer for Retail offering. It’s definitely a cross-channel experience. This takes the cross-channel experience and enhances it for the brick-and-mortar environment.

The Connected Consumer for Retail offering is based on three core principles. Principle number one is providing that enhanced customer experience, that immersive experience, which ultimately increases revenues and basket sizes for retailers.
The Connected Consumer for Retail offering takes the cross-channel experience and enhances it for the brick-and-mortar environment.

The second principle is based on optimizing in-store operations. How do you ensure that you have the right amount of stock -- not overstocking and not under-stocking? How do you reduce the amount of a lost inventory? This Connected Consumer offering will help shrink and reduce the cost structures in a brick-and-mortar environment.

And finally, as Kalyan mentioned, the third key principle is around driving new insights from the in-store analytics. That data and intelligence is derived from the customers -- coming through video-location analytics and all kinds of integration into social networks. You can know so much more about the customer, and then give that customer a personalized experience that brings them back and increases brand loyalty.

Gardner: I suppose it’s important to connect all of the dots across an entire shopping ecosystem process – from research to purchase to installation to service. Is that what we need?

Garimella: Absolutely, and that is what we refer to as an omni-channel experience, or a unified commerce experience. Our customers these days expect a seamless continuous shopping experience -- be it online or in a store. If you can create that consistent behavior and shopping experience, that is a powerful channel to attract even more customers. 

There are many retail concepts very much in demand right now, such as online delivery or pickup at the store. Or you can order in-store and have delivery to your house. Or you can order in one store and pick up in other stores, if the inventory is not currently available in the initial store.

So whatever channel they choose, you can provide value in each of those steps back to the customer – and in doing so you are attracting loyalty, you are building the brand. And that is a powerful medium.
Deloitte and HPE Collaboration
Span 20 Years and 
Myriad IT Solutions
Gardner: And the more interactions, the more data, the more feedback, the more analysis, and the better the experience. It can all tie together.

Let’s talk about how the technology accomplishes that. You mentioned a new retail initiative at HPE in partnership with Deloitte. What are fundamental technology underpinnings that allow this to happen?

Solid foundations for success

Garimella: The Connected Consumer for Retail begins at the infrastructure level -- solutions around HPE Aruba, HPE Edgeline Systems portfolio, and other converged infrastructure systems. For location-based analysis, we are using the wireless LAN from Aruba and their Meridian App Platform for mobile. From a security layer, we are using Niara and ClearPass, but we are also working with a set of third-party vendors for radio-frequency identification (RFID) and for video analytics. So it amounts to an ecosystem of the right partners to solve the right business problem for each of those retailers.

Gardner: And, of course, it has to be integrated properly, and that is where Deloitte comes in. How does that come together into an actual solution?

Carlat: This is the beauty of working with a group like Deloitte. They bring together the consultative and advisory capabilities, along with the technical integration needed. Deloitte brings the ability to help the customer figure out how to get started on this journey. 

First off, the methodology helps a customer think big about what they can do, then helps them actually build a business plan internally to drive change and get the right business approvals to start changing. Then they proceed to solution execution that starts small – and builds a proof of concept.
How HPE and Deloitte
Align IT
With Business Strategies
In as little as eight weeks, we can deliver the value that can then be extrapolated across all of the retail sites. That’s what projects the true savings. That is the proper scale: To think big where you can, then start small, and lastly, scale fast across all of the sites.

Gardner: Kalyan, any more to offer on the importance of proper integration at a solutions level?

Garimella: Internet of Things (IoT) is such a complex ecosystem of technologies that you need subject matter experts from each of the technologies -- such as RFID, Bluetooth beacons, Wi-Fi, analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), your core enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, the customer relationship management (CRM) systems, and the list goes on. 

That’s where we come in, with the right people, and with the vast resources that we have. That’s deep industry expertise. We come and we look at the problems, create the customer journey for our clients, and then create the right level of systems integration that can help achieve the business objective. 

Gardner: Let’s look at some examples. What are some of the ways that retailers are doing things right to improve on that all-important user experience?

Carlat: As a consumer, I know what I like -- and I know what I do not like. I have seen overly aggressive advertising, pushiness that repels me as much as waiting in a long line at a retail brick-and-mortar. There needs to be a correct balance, if you will, of suggestive selling, cross-selling, and upselling. But you have to have the right learning, the right analytics, to be right more times than you are wrong. It means providing a value versus becoming a pest. 

This new offering allows that balance to be made. Other best practices would be providing point notifications to issue a discount that would get me as a consumer over the buying hump, to say, “You know, that is a good deal. I cannot pass this up.” Then as a seller, I can naturally dovetail into increasing the basket size, cross-sell, and upsell.

Gardner: How can the brick-and-mortar company better extend itself beyond the threshold of the physical building into the lifestyle, the experience, and the needs of the consumer? 

Customized consumer choices

Garimella: You are talking about bringing the retailer into the houses of the customers. That is where the successful online retailers have been. We are working with our brick-and-mortar clients to create similar experiences. 

Some of the options to do that would be having a digital voice assistant included on your retailer or shopping app. You could add items to a wish list; you could look up those items and determine if they are close by and where is the retailer nearest to my house. Maybe I could go and check those out instead of waiting for a couple of days for them to be delivered.
We are talking about bringing the retailer into the houses of the customers. That is where the successful online retailers have been.

So those are some of the experiences that we are trying to create -- not just inside the brick-and-mortar store, but outside as well. 

Gardner: Jeff, tell us a bit more about the Connected Consumer for Retail. Where can we find out more information?

Carlat: We are rolling out this offering in Q1 2018. It is being delivered consultatively initially through Deloitte as the lead. We are happy to come in and do demos, as well as deliver proofs of concept. We are actually happy to help build a business model and conduct workshops to understand what is the best path for retailers to begin adopting the on-ramp to this digital transformation. 

The easiest way to get to us is via our websites at either HPE or at Deloitte. We have business leads in all regions, all parts of the world.

Gardner: We have talked mostly about brick-and-mortar retailers, but this applies to hospitality organizations, restaurants, and other consumer services. How should they too be thinking about the user experience and extending it to a life cycle and a lifestyle?

From pain to gain

Garimella: Wherever there’s a possibility of converting a pain point in a customer journey into an engagement point, I think IoT can definitely help. We are calling this the Connected Consumer for Retail for a reason. The same concepts and the same technologies that we have developed for the retail solution can be extended to hospitality, or travel, or food services, et cetera, et cetera.

For example, based on location and proximity of a user, you can create -- using the location-based services – improved experiences that cater to individuals in hospitality and hotels by giving them the right offers at the right time, thereby increasing the basket size in their respective industries.

Gardner: It seems that across these vertical industries we are at the threshold of something that had never been possible before.

Carlat: This is the beginning of a new era for retail. What is clear to me is those retailers that choose to adopt change are going to be the winners -- and more importantly those that do not choose to change are going to be the losers.
Deloitte and HPE Collaboration
Span 20 Years and 
Myriad IT Solutions
Garimella: I think Jeff hit it right on. Retail is changing and changing fast, and other industries will follow in the same suit as well. If you do not put enough emphasis on customer engagement, while also optimizing your operations, you are at risk.