„The rise of virtual collaboration and training in health care”

Corona has changed healthcare customer service. Medical technology companies need to become more digital. Dr. Thomas Borchert, Global Head of Education for Point of Care, Molecular Diagnostics, and Diagnostic Informatics at Siemens Healthcare GmbH in Eschborn, Germany, explains these findings and more in this interview. Borchert also reveals what we can learn from the Corona pandemic about customer loyalty in the healthcare sector and how digital training is changing healthcare education.

(Credit: Siemens Healthineers)

What lessons have been gained from the coronavirus pandemic about the future of customer service?

Dr. Thomas Borchert: Even during the pandemic, the focus of our work is naturally on maintaining the service for our end customers at the usual scale. Thanks to the close cooperation between central training and country service departments, many experiences can be shared more quickly and existing infrastructure can be used together, so that well-trained employees can be deployed more quickly to the customer’s premises. As an internal training department, we play a key role in ensuring that employees in the countries where Siemens Healthineers sell medical and laboratory products can install and commission products continuously and to high standards of quality. To ensure this, a globally active company like ours needs an absolutely reliable IT backbone that enables virtual collaboration, coordination and training.  

What concrete changes do you see in the area of training of health professionals in general?

Dr. Thomas Borchert: In general, and not only in the health education sector, the digitization of training will continue. This is already clearly evident. In some parts of our business, training was already running almost virtually before the pandemic. This level has increased due to the pandemic  and will continue to increase in the future. The task now is to do this in a sustainable manner, taking into account the relevant framework conditions, such as the quality of training, but also availability around the so-called point of work. This naturally affects our own employees as well as all other system-relevant groups for our customers in the healthcare system. I therefore expect a justified, significantly increasing expectation to collaborate and train virtually – when it makes sense. As a globally active company, virtual collaboration and training will also allow us to meet our responsibility in significantly reducing our CO2 footprint.

How did the focus of customer inquiries change during the pandemic?

(Credit: Dr. Thomas Borchert)

Dr. Thomas Borchert: If we look at the products themselves, the focus during the pandemic clearly shifted to currently required modalities, such as blood gas analysis, molecular diagnostics and antibody testing. The same happened in the field of diagnostic imaging for particularly necessary procedures, such as computer tomography. Accordingly, we are committed to making the relevant training and education content available promptly, both internally for our employees and externally for our customers. We are observing a significant increase in the use of our online training platform, PEPconnect, with which we make training content available on a competence-based, multilingual and asynchronous basis. 

We therefore feel confirmed that our customers are open-minded about virtual training, both in Germany and in many other countries. The main focus is on the clinical basics of corona-related clinical practice and the correct use of our products, but also general health topics. However, the variability per country is very broad.

Which aspects do you consider important for digital transformation at the point of care? 

Dr. Thomas Borchert: The Point of Care (PoC) is a decentrally organized area. Accordingly, the digitally supported networking on site at our customers’ premises, which is made possible by our IT solutions, is very important in order to remain qualitatively and highly efficiently operational at several locations, with many devices and possibly thousands of users. But digital PoC also rightly raises expectations among our customers’ customers, the patients. Especially in combination with Digital Health applications, PoC can and should be a pioneer in the field of patient experience and digital health care. In combination with limited personnel availability, this multiplies the need for very good training. This is because ideally it is available at all times and everywhere, so that our customers and employees can independently and autonomously access exactly the knowledge and tools they need in a timely manner. The digital combination of all these variables will have a very positive influence on the further and increasing relevance and standardization in the field of PoC.

RAPIDPoint® 500e Blutgasanalysesystem (Credit: Siemens Healthineers)

Your smart remote service network enables online remote diagnostics and software updates. What new experiences did you have with it during the pandemic?

Dr. Thomas Borchert: Apart from the fact that use in the national organizations is naturally increasing due to travel restrictions, our Smart Remote Service (SRS) solution has been fully established as a standard tool in training operations, even more so than before the crisis. This enables our internal training participants to access our training devices in Eschborn from their own location within the framework of a virtual training course. This feature allows them to get to know relevant and product-specific features with the tool for their daily work with our customers. However, SRS not only allows us to diagnose faults; we can also use tools to rectify them. During the pandemic, we also identified a number of other digital tools that will help us in the future to make our service even more up-to-date – that is, faster, remote and user-friendly – for the benefit of our customers.

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Siemens Healthineers

Siemens Healthineers AG is a leading global medical technology company. Healthineers offers innovative products and services in the fields of diagnostic and therapeutic imaging, laboratory diagnostics and molecular medicine as well as digital health services and hospital management. At their Eschborn location, various further education and training courses are designed, both digital and on-site.

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