Healthcare providers often suffer from interoperability issues due to diverse IT solutions that do not always easily communicate with each other, leading to data silos and inefficiencies. In addition, there is a need for more skilled workers in more and more markets where one can witness the chaos that is constantly growing. Finally, the further increase in cost pressure due to demographic developments is leading to consolidation and privatization which is leading to organizations feeling the immense pressure.
Germany-based COMED has developed a cutting-edgesupply chain management platform that seamlessly integrates multiple workflows within and across hospitals, labs, surgeries, and warehouses. COMED has always listened to its customers and developed a Cloud-based and user-friendly next-generation solution, digitizing customer workflows from replacing pen-and-paper processes with its mobile app and closing the gaps to achieve efficiency.
COMED is a leading provider in developing and implementing state-of-the-art ERP, supply chain management, and e-commerce solutions in healthcare. 450+ successfully completed projects for healthcare providers worldwide; today, more than 22,000 users work daily in 21 countries with COMED solutions. The material management solution realizes a purchasing volume of more than € 2 billion per annum across its customer base.
With the Knipps brothers Tim and Michael as second-generation Managing Partners, COMED is an independent company, and 100% of the company is family owned. This is how they ensure COMED’s neutrality and independence and secure their decision-making process without external influences or the consideration of the interests of third parties. “Our discipline is the long-run and we value speed. Our customers can rely on our strong commitment to long-term success and benefit from stability and continuity for over 36 years,” says Tim O. Knipps, CEO of COMED. “We have a proven track record of innovation, and our customers have direct influence over future developments, allowing us to build and expand our solutions based on complete, market driven specifications. This agility leads to faster innovation and tailored solutions that meet specific healthcare customer requirements.”
Effective leadership in SaaS IT companies varies depending on the size, culture, and specific goals of the company. COMED values every single team member, every single customer, and continuous innovation.
They have always lived a visionary leadership. The Knipps brothers’ parents founded the company in 1986 and introduced the first IT systems for medical laboratories – based on MS-DOS. As they migrated their solutions to the next technology platform, Windows, the company saw many competitors go out of business as the need for Windows-based software and graphical interfaces became popular. “When I joined the company in 2005, we used our experience to reinvent ourselves again and create a leading web-based application,” adds Tim. “So, innovation is in our DNA. We are launching our new corporate identity alongside our native cloud solutions. We have a clear vision of where we want to go as the COMED family, and we are fortunate to have an inspired team to work towards that common goal. Driving team empowerment and developing our talent is very important to me as part of my role as CEO.”
Another core value of the company is customer-centric leadership. From its early days as an innovative IT company to today as a modern SaaS company, COMED has been committed to long-term customer relationships, enabling them to migrate to subscription models. “Today, agile leadership is more important than ever as we operate in fast-paced, ever-changing markets, particularly in healthcare with data-driven opportunities that are emerging,” interprets Tim. “We encourage a culture of continuous improvement and innovation to stay ahead of the competition and relevant. Our vision is to transform healthcare through innovation and passion.”
Building Great Solutions& Helping Clients
Thanks to the open interface concept, COMED’s software solutions integrate optimally and resource-conserving with their existing IT infrastructures – regardless of whether they are LIS, HIS, Accounting or ERP. “COMED has an open interface structure for integration of other products, independent of standard file transfer or modern API’s. The integration of other software products is daily business for our in-house integration experts,” explains Tim. “For example, we have built an ERP connector, with libraries of different ERP message types and formats. Through our history as an LIS company, we have implemented over 120 different interfaces using our market specific expertise (HL7, FHIR, API’s etc.), which is now expanding to the entire healthcare arena.”
Although COMED does not save any personal patient data, being an ERP-System, cyber security plays a significant role in all their activities. At COMED, it starts early with developers, DevOps engineers and the development process. Training and regular code reviews provide important understanding at multiple levels. Tools for static code analysis and linting with reporting functionalities establish quality gates in the development process. Concepts such as least privilege and zero trust play an important role in the architecture of COMED’s software to ensure high security. In addition, a thorough risk assessment is carried out to identify potential vulnerabilities and threats at an early stage and to understand their impact. At runtime, (web application) firewalls, deep observability, alerts and penetration tests support security and early detection of attacks. “But with all the processes and support from tools, we must not rest on our “laurels” and assume absolute security. Our task is to continuously monitor security with this mindset as an ongoing process and to constantly challenge our security concept in order to stay one step ahead of attackers,” says Tim . “At COMED, we have dedicated ourselves to revolutionizing healthcare by combining cutting-edge technology with unwavering commitment. Our Teamcontinues to focus on customer satisfaction; we lead with innovation that enhances patient care, improves outcomes, and empowers healthcare professionals,” he elucidates.
The key priorities facing hospitals today include providing the best care to patients, service innovation, easing the burden on staff, and working as efficiently as possible. The Paracelsus Group—a network of 37 healthcare facilities at 19 locations throughout Germany, has embraced these challenges with an ambitious digitalization project with the help of COMED. This project won the prestigious 2021 Schrittmacher Award, which recognizes companies for exceptional and pioneering projects and has become a blueprint for other healthcare facilities.
In common with many organizations, the group’s IT systems had evolved piecemeal over many years to comprise a wide range of different systems and applications. Procurement logistics and purchasing were two areas in particular where Paracelsus-Kliniken had to contend with a fragmented technology landscape.
A new solution was needed to enhance ordering. A project team was created, which determined the need for a central database with standardized itemnumbers that would enable digital, bundled ordering processes across all sites. Greater transparency and accuracy of data was also a key goal, as this would allow the purchasing department to negotiate the best payment and delivery terms for the entire group. To support the project’s implementation, Paracelsus-Kliniken chose COMED, a Zebra Registered ISV, as its software partner, a specialist in supply chain management and e-commerce solutions in the healthcare sector. COMED’s recommendation to create a versatile solution was compelling. It recommended an advanced cloud architecture to enable app-based orders and electronic data exchange with suppliers while offering a seamless connection to the hospital information system (HIS).
To give hospital staff easy access to the features they need in their everyday work, COMED developed a customized Android app installed on mobile devices. The devices would also manage barcode scanning to record used or delivered materials at the touch of a button. To find the best devices, the Paracelsus Group compared products from three manufacturers in a comprehensive benchmark study. It opted for three devices from Zebra’s Android™ portfolio:
COMED helped to deploy the devices and took over their management and maintenance. Paracelsus Group rolled out the central materials management system from COMED across the group in 15 months despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Implementation began in the rehab clinics in March 2020. The emergency care clinics followed at intervals of often only four weeks, including training of 50 to 100 users per site. In some cases, remote rollouts were required. But thanks to Agile project management methodologies to accelerate delivery, and strong on-site support of COMED, the system successfully went live in June 2021.
The solution has paid for itself in less than 12 months. Using the central merchandise management system has enabled the group to standardize its ordering processes and establish rigorous processes for strategic procurement. As a result, the annual ancillary order costs have fallen by a five-figure amount, while procure-to-pay process times have been halved. Since all orders are bundled via purchasing, the hospitals and clinics always have an overview of their current stock levels. Duplicate orders are avoided, and the number of products that must be discarded due to expired shelf-life dates is minimal. With a real-time view of inventory, the group can also respond flexibly to supply chain problems in the market and quickly find alternatives if a product is unavailable.
The hospitals and clinics benefit, too, from greater transparency and data accuracy. This allows costs to be correctly assigned to individual patients and the exact material expenditure of an operation to be determined in next to no time. And the platform has also dramatically reduced time spent on administrative tasks. The automated documentation, ordering, and billing processes have helped save 90 minutes daily, spread across the operating theatres, purchasing/warehousing, and finance and accounting areas.
With the project exceeding expectations, the group plans its phased rollout to all other critical operational areas, including legal and consulting, marketing, IT supplies, and recruitment. In time, all orders, inventory management, and logistics will be run by the central ordering system. The hospital can be confident of its future costs, with its devices managed by COMED for a set fee over the planned lifecycle.
Towards A Bright Future
COMED references extend from multinational lab groups (LADR Group, Unilabs, Pure Health, IHH Healthcareetc.) to various university hospitals (e.g., Mainz, Erlangen, UKE Hamburg) and acute-care hospitals (including Paracelsus Clinics and Helios) to eye clinics (ARTEMIS and Veonet/OSG). The foundation of COMED’s customers’ success with its Reagent Management System is the experience gained from more than 450 realized projects in 21 countries. “We have included many healthcare-specific requirements in our standard ERP suite. Annual customer conferences guarantee continuous improvement. Our RMS simplifies processes by “scanning the box”, i.e., identifying any barcode within the customer’s organization to fulfill quality management, audit trail and supply chain needs,” states Tim. “We have always used unique features like filling the fridge where all items can be replenished at the touch of a button. Today, we are leveraging AI to improve automation and user experience. E-Commerce integration and EDI streamline B2B communication.”
Florian Distler, COO of Paracelsus Kliniken has one word to describe the company—Brilliant. He says, “COMED is a very innovative and forward-looking company that is breaking boundaries to help customers in the most innovative ways.” He adds, “working with them is like experiencing an agile, collaborative team who understand the problems and then find long-term solutions. My personal experience has been great and what I admire most about the company is their ability to adapt according to changes.”
The company delivers configurable workflows within a standardized industry solution. Their clients include private laboratory groups, regional labs, hospital chains, multi-disciplinary acute care hospitals, regional clusters of healthcare providers, post-acute hospital chains, IVF clinics, and many more internationally. Having gained detailed experience in implementing a scalable solution for private equity-based portfolio companies, COMED enables them to implement shared services for centralized procurement, QM and finance.
For the days to come, COMED’s expansion plan is twofold. On the one hand, they will expand their market share of laboratories and hospitals and enter new markets, such as eye clinics, dentists and general practitioners. On the other hand, they are strengthening their business development through their affiliate companies in Dubai and Singapore. “We are also evaluating OEM strategies for white label licensing. We are currently working on the launch of our brand-new cloud native supply chain solution for our healthcare customers. So the launch of our new logo is consequential. The future is bright and there is so much to do and accomplish that I believe this is just the beginning,” concludes Tim.