Stronger together than alone, as demonstrated by UZ Ghent and Arco
UZ Ghent and Arco have been working together since 2019, and this partnership has already borne fruit. Currently, the hospital group already receives about 30% of their annual invoices via the Peppol network. This is, at the very least, lightning-fast progress, as the project was only really launched in 2020 following several months of preparation. How enthusiastically they began the adventure, the more enthusiastically they look forward to the further roll-out of eOrdering and sending invoices via Peppol. UZ Ghent also sees GS1 playing an even more prominent role in the internal track and trace of assets in the hospital.
The health sector has had two extra busy years and for now there seems to be no improvement in sight. "We had just started the technical set-up of the eInvoicing project with Arco when the lockdown hit hard. Of course, at that time the focus was on health care and not on administrative processes," says Bernard Fockaert, Head of ICT at UZ Ghent. "Nevertheless, we have progressed digitally as a result and have quietly worked hard together, so that we can now proudly look back on a really great evolution." Diane Ruysschaert, Account Manager at Arco, agrees: "The pandemic has once again demonstrated the power of digitisation. It was the right time to put all our efforts into EDI so that hospitals could focus on what really matters: healthcare.
This evolution can even be called a revolution. Although the first suppliers were only successfully set up in September 2020, by the end of the same year they were already receiving around 10% of their invoices via the Peppol network. “When you know that UZ Ghent receives some 85,000 to 100,000 invoices every year, that's not nothing," adds Bernard. How did UZ Ghent process their invoicing before this? Manually on paper. So the turnaround time for an invoice could easily be several months, taking into account any resource problems. Step by step, the administrative processes were tackled: on the one hand, the receipt of invoices by e-mail and, on the other, only two flows of invoices, one with and one without an order reference. With the introduction of EDI, we have succeeded in reducing the registration and encoding of purchase invoices to a strict minimum, and the fully automatic processing of qualitative EDI invoices with purchase order is a fact.
During our discussion, something soon became clear: the power of cooperation. UZ Ghent and Arco complement each other well, which is why they got this project off to a flying start. "We have adeptly adapted to the current situation. We monitored everything closely and always looked for solutions together," Bernard says. "We’ve become an agile tandem," laughs Diane.
Bernard and Diane weren’t just talking about their own collaboration. "We support some 47 hospitals in their transactional data exchange projects. Most of the suppliers are common to many hospitals and almost all come from the pharmaceutical sector", Diane explains. "When we write to suppliers to switch to EDI, we are not only speaking for UZ Ghent, but also for our other customers. In doing so, you also demonstrate to the suppliers the importance of switching to EDI. They then kill 47 birds with one stone. Furthermore, in the health sector you work a lot with international companies, whose headquarters are often not in Belgium. "At present, eInvoicing is not yet mandatory in Belgium. That’s why many companies don’t yet see it as a priority. We are actively writing and speaking to them to convince them of the benefits of introducing it now. Since Arco supports several hospitals, they have the power to convince those international suppliers as well," Bernard says.
"For suppliers, eOrdering is the most interesting," he continues. "We certainly want to do so, but only on condition that they can first ensure eInvoicing via Peppol. Meanwhile, we already have about 20 suppliers on eOrdering through Peppol." Together with Arco and four suppliers, UZ Ghent is now looking at how they can organise themselves even better via Peppol, including for maintenance and service contracts, consignments and batches sent on approval. The aim is to get this sorted out in a standardised way as well.
We are also looking at how the dispatch notes can be received via Peppol. The challenge lies in the correct processing of the specific identifications on medicines and their packaging, which are attached to delivered pallets.
From pallet to the patient
Bernard also looks further ahead. "The ultimate goal is that we can trace the articles arriving on pallets to the patient in the hospital. Here, too, GS1 will be able to play a greater role. We actually have to ensure that the information from the suppliers can flow smoothly into our internal administration and that therefore the master data is fully oriented towards GS1 standards." We are now looking at how this can be put into practice.
So there’s still a lot to do, but if the next steps are as smooth and harmonious as the first, then this undoubtedly promises to be a successful project.