German hospital group Rhön Klinikum AG, believes its new web-based electronic patient record will be a key success factor for its €120m new centre for particle therapy.

To cover expenses, the specialist facility will need to attract patients from all over Germany and possibly across Europe. The managers of Rhön Klinikum hope that the electronic patient record will enable the group to attract and treat the volumes of patients required and make the workflows more efficient.

Centres for particle therapy offer a special kind of proton based radiation therapy for cancer patients in advanced stages. They are extremely expensive, because they need a particle accelerator on site to produce the protons necessary. Rhön Klinikum, a leading private hospital chain in Germany, is currently building such a facility at its hospital site in Marburg.

The particle therapy centre is being technically delivered by Siemens and will be finished in 2010. Siemens is also Rhön’s cooperating partner on a Germany-wide electronic patient record called WebEPA. E-Health Europe reported on the launch of the project last year.

WebEPA, which is based on the software Soarian Integrated Care (SIC), is about making medical documents and digital images of patients accessible to either colleagues in cooperating hospitals or doctors in private practice. SIC is also used in the Scottish eye screening programme.

“This is an investment of about €120m,” said Rhön’s chief financial officer Dietmar Pawlik on Monday at the ‘Hospitalworld’ conference in Berlin.

Pawlik now said that both projects, the centre for particle therapy and the WebEPA project, were not only realised by the same company but were also closely related from a strategic point of view: “In fact, the centre for particle therapy is the reason why the responsibility for the EPR project within Rhön lies with the CFO”, said Pawlik.

To make the particle therapy centre profitable, Rhön will need as many referrals from cooperating radiation therapists as possible.

These referrals will have to be organised efficiently. And this means not only bringing the patient safely to Marburg and back, but also transfering large amounts of medical image material from the referring radiation therapist to the centre for particle therapy beforehand.

Rhön Kliniken AG owns six centres for radiation therapy across Germany. The six centres treat approximately 100,000 patients with radiation therapy per year. Pawlik said. “These centres will refer patients who might benefit from particle therapy to Marburg from 2010 onwards”.

They six existing centres will use the WebEPA to make radiographs, PET/CT-images etc. accessible to the specialists in Marburg. The specialists can then you use the material for therapy planning well before the patient is actually there.

To attract additional patients, Rhön will also open the WebEPA to doctors from other facilities as well. “We will cooperate with radiation therapists in private practice, and they, too, will be linked to the centre for particle therapy via the WebEPA,” said Pawlik.

Further out there is the possibility of offering the service internationally. Rhön has already established a portal solution to communicate digitally with hospitals in different European countries.