Nuffield Hospitals has begun rolling out enterprise resource planning and document management software to its 40 hospitals to protect profit margins when it takes on NHS work, which is being offered at rates lower than those paid by private medical insurers.
The UK's largest private hospital group is installing the software in clusters of two or three hospitals at a time, after successfully completing tests at three hospitals in late 2006.
Nuffield's IT director, Chris Cook, said, "The IT investment is increasing operational efficiencies and it will therefore contribute towards the indirect costs of carrying out an operation."
The group is using Lawson Financials as its ERP system and Version One for document management. The two systems are used in about 30 hospital groups in the US.
Cook said, "We have learned that Lawson and Version One are very robust systems. We have also saved ourselves a lot of paperwork and administration."
Nuffield expects to recoup its £4m investment in Lawson through improved efficiency within three years.
The biggest savings will come from creating a central procurement function for the group, which Nuffield will put in place as soon as Lawson is live at all 40 sites. This will enable the group to cut stockholdings in individual hospitals because of its greater flexibility. Nuffield aims to cut the average number of days' worth of stock held by hospitals from 60 to about 30.
Other savings are expected to come from establishing a shared services centre for back-office functions, starting with finance.
Cook said bringing human resources into the shared services centre was "the next logical step".
Nuffield has installed dedicated HP servers to run the ERP system.
Nuffield rolls out Choose and Book
Nuffield Hospitals is implementing Choose and Book software from the NHS alongside its ERP system.
It tested the software, which enables GPs to refer patients for appointments with the hospital of their choice, at its private hospital in Plymouth last December.
The number of referrals the hospital received jumped from 30 a week by phone and fax to an average of 75 after the software went live.
More on Nuffield's systems upgrade www.computerweekly.com/219327
Link to Nuffield Hospitals
Link to Lawsons
Related article: Nuffield rolls out ERP to open door to NHS work
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