In a business landscape increasingly defined by hyperscale conglomerates and multi-billion dollar mergers, it’s easy to forget the advantages that come with being small. Founded in 1933, Leumit Health Services is the smallest of Israel’s four health management organisations (HMOs). While it may not be able to provide treatment to the largest number of patients in the country, by leveraging technology, its employees’ extensive experience and its innate agility, Leumit is dedicated to ensuring that it consistently delivers the best possible service to the people in its care. Leumit operates under the motto: “Taking care of your future health today,” a nod to its commitment to preventative health care as an integral part of the community service it delivers.
Leumit operates 350 clinics and around 170 pharmacies across Israel. Ensuring that essential medicine arrives on time and in the correct quantities is a mission critical priority for the organisation’s supply chain. “The medication that we’re purchasing can be life saving and if, for some reason, there’s a shortage, that's my problem,” says Leumit’s Director of Purchasing and Logistics, Eli Zimels, who has served in his current role at the organisation for 11 years. We sat down with Zimels to explore his role in Leumit’s ongoing digital transformation – a process which is seeing the HMO harness technology to further enhance its exemplary standard of patient care.
“We may be the smallest HMO, but we like to think we’re the best in terms of the service we provide our patients,” says Zimels. “We’re a ‘family HMO’: our doctors, nurses and pharmacists know each of their patients personally and can give them individual care. We put a great deal of money and energy into being the HMO with the best service.” In order to pursue this goal, Leumit has developed a ‘one-stop-shop’ model at its clinics. “You can see the doctor, then if you need something from the laboratory, you can go downstairs and take your blood test or your urine test. If you need an x-ray, you can get one at the same clinic and, as you leave, you can pick up your prescription from the pharmacy,” explains Zimels. This combination of diverse medical services in one location, and an emphasis on developing personal relationships between patients and medical staff, is the core driver behind Leumit’s reputation of having one of the best standards of care in the country.
Of course, Zimels explains, with a goal like this, the drive to improve and innovate is continuous. In support of improving patient service, Leumit is pursuing three projects as part of its ongoing digital transformation.
Medication on demand
The project at the front of mind for Zimels and his logistics team is a new initiative through which patients will – in the next few months – be able to begin ordering their prescriptions online and have them delivered to their homes. “We’re going to be the first HMO to do this,” he explains. Breaking ground in this way isn’t without its challenges, Zimels admits. “In Israel, the regulations on something like this are very strict, so until now nobody was able to offer a prescription delivery service. When you innovate like this, you have to start from scratch and that leads to challenges. We’ve had to have a lot of sessions with the Ministry of Health to explain what kind of help we need and which regulations they have to change so that we will be able to begin making deliveries.”
Digital Supply Chain
At a time when Leumit is embarking on an expansion of its logistics responsibilities as significant as prescription deliveries, Zimels and his team have needed to harness every tool at their disposal to improve the consistency and quality of the HMO’s back end supply chain function. “We’ve just finished implementing SAP across our logistics and purchasing models, finance, budgeting and our maintenance model for all the equipment in the HMO,” he says. The implementation of an industry-leading ERP solution will, Zimels believes, go a long way towards increasing transparency and decreasing disruptions in Leumit’s supply chain, but the organisation’s relationships with its suppliers will also need to be an object of focus. “Often, our suppliers don't volunteer the fact that there's going to be a problem or a shortage,” he says. “Mostly, we find out after we send an order through – that’s the most common disruptor of our supply chain. We’re seeing a trend of B2B interactions moving more towards an all-digital format, and we think that SAP will get us part of the way towards closing that circle, but we’re also going to need to collaborate with our suppliers in a way that results in an improved experience for the patient.”
Improving patient care and customer experience
“One of the most common requests from our cardiologists is that, when they take an EKG of a patient, they are able to easily access that patient’s previous EKGs for comparison,” Zimels explains. Digitalising patient data for the sake of easy access, distribution and backup is the third major project that Zimels is working on currently. In the end, he hopes medical data will be transferred directly from the equipment to the HMO’s database, where it will then be available to relevant doctors, and even to the patients themselves. This will further support Leumit’s current digital diagnostic and support services, which allow patients to schedule appointments, consult with physicians via video conference, access their medical records and receive their lab results, all from the comfort of their homes. “You'll be able to have a video appointment with your doctor, who will be able to send your lab results to your computer, recommend medication and arrange to have it sent directly to your home,” says Zimels. “We’re closing a circle so you, as a patient, don’t even have to leave your home.”
With plans for the first home deliveries of medication to begin around the end of October, before fully rolling out in 2020, and increased digitalisation of both the organisation’s strategic purchasing strategies and patient documentation, Zimel’s is confident that the coming years will see Leumit and its supply chain go from strength to strength. Reflecting on those strengths, he reflects that “first of all, “We have great workers. Our workers are highly-educated, have a lot of experience, and are innovative and willing to learn. Secondly, we are very flexible as an organisation: our strategic purchasing department is very autonomous. We don’t need to have lots of committees to approve things internally.” Externally, Leumit’s size also contributes to its flexibility, particularly when negotiating with pharmaceutical companies for purchases. “By giving us a low price, we provide them with early entry to the market, sometimes ahead of the National Basket. A small HMO has an advantage doing this,” Zimels explains.
This combination of agility, flexibility and ongoing digitalisation will, Zimels is confident, continue to see Leumit provide a standard of service to its patients that is unmatched among its competitors.