Siemens is to make its hospital information system part of the Asklepios Future Hospital Programme (AFH), one of the highest profile digital healthcare projects in Germany.

The co-operation may provide Siemens with a valuable channel through which to introduce its next generation Soarian Hospital Information System (HIS) to its home markets.

The announcement, made at the Medica health trade fair in Dusseldorf last week, potentially marks a significant step in the development and adoption of Siemens’ strategic Soarian product. Despite heavy investment, the company has struggled to get widespread adoption of Soarian.

The AFH is a health IT development programme that was initiated by Asklepios, a leading private hospital chain in Germany. Under the AFH umbrella, Asklepios is cooperating with dozens of IT companies, including Intel and Microsoft.

Participating companies get access to Asklepios’ expertise in hospital processes and in medical issues. Furthermore, they can test new products directly in a hospital setting.

In return, Asklepios can use the IT solutions that come out of these partnerships for competitive fees or even for free. The newly announced Siemens Asklepios co-operation will follow this model, although financial details were not disclosed.

“What we want to do is to expand our HIS by adding elements that further enhance its performance,” said Bernd Montag, CEO of imaging & IT at Siemens Healthcare. “These elements include a new user interface technology, an innovative information management system and a service-oriented architecture,” said Montag.

The new “elements” will be based on the technology of the new generation Siemens HIS Soarian. This suggests that what Montag called “expansion” of may actually prove to be a migration towards Soarian, the next-generation SOA HIS product that Siemens has found difficult to sell in its central European home markets.

The HIS is used by approximately 150 hospitals in central Europe, mainly in the German speaking countries. The software was acquired by Siemens two years ago from its German competitor, GSD.

For Asklepios, the co-operation is a good option to modernize parts of its HIS-spectrum: “Within the Asklepios corporation, more than 10,000 doctors and nursing staff are using in their everyday work,” said Uwe Pöttgen, head of the Asklepios IT department.

Pöttgen said that the necessary development work will initially be done in the eight Asklepios hospitals in Hamburg. “It is clear, though, that we are not interested in a Hamburg only solution. We clearly aim at a scalable system that we can also use in other Asklepios hospitals, both in Germany and abroad.”