SAP user group calls for support deadline reprieve amid hospital billing worries

Schedule is unrealistic... it takes 2 years just to tender, protests board member

The German-speaking SAP user group has called on the European software giant to extend support for a specialist industry solution based on its ageing ECC platform amid fears of disruption to hospital billing processes in Germany, Switzerland and Austria.

The SAP billing solution IS-H is based on ECC, an ERP platform introduced around 30 years ago, and is widely used by hospitals in the German-speaking world. Mainstream support for the solution, along with ECC, is set to end in 2027, while extended maintenance is likely to be available at a cost until 2030.

User group DSAG said that only in June did SAP say it would allow third parties to develop a successor to IS-H via a license agreement with partners such as T-Systems Austria.

However, the replacement IS-H solution is only available for customers who have already moved, or are about to move to S/4HANA, DSAG argued.

Customers still on ECC will have to upgrade to S/4HANA before ECC mainstream support runs out to benefit from the new third-party solution, giving users little time for the migration of core software vital to the running of the organization. DSAG, therefore, has called for SAP to extend support for ECC for these customers at no extra charge.

Unrealistic migration schedule

Walter Schinnerer, DSAG board member Austria, said in order to avoid costly extended maintenance, clinics and hospitals would have to replace IS-H and their SAP ERP system within three years.

"Although the new solution should be available from 2025, it will certainly be difficult for T-Systems Austria and all affected companies to have migrated before the end of mainstream maintenance for IS-H in 2027. After all, this also goes hand in hand with a previous S/4HANA introduction," he said.

"This schedule is not only very ambitious, but simply unrealistic. It takes around two years just to tender for an IS-H successor solution. Then all that remains is implementation, necessary adjustments and data migration," Schinnerer said.

"Since SAP has changed its own industry strategy, the software manufacturer should now do something to ensure that it does not completely lose customer trust. A first step would be to offer extended maintenance at no extra charge for the continuation of the use of the previous industry solution SAP Patient Management (IS-H)," he said.

More than 95 percent of all patients treated in Austria in the inpatient and outpatient areas are affected, DSAG said. Without a new solution, no patients can be admitted, no services can be described, no discharges can be carried out and no billing can be carried out, the user group said.

SAP has agreed that third parties can develop the hospital industry solution directly on S/4HANA, the in-memory ERP system launched in 2015, which can be deployed on-prem or in the cloud. However, its preferred method for creating industry-specific software is via its Business Technology Platform, the cloud-based development environment. Users in the region did not want to deploy the new solution in the cloud due to local legislation, DSAG said.

In a statement to The Reg, an SAP spokesperson said SAP's release and maintenance strategy remains unchanged. "Healthcare is strategically important for SAP. We are in constant and close exchange with our customers and partners from the healthcare system to help them remain efficient even in uncertain times.

"Our goal for the future, based on feedback from our customers and in line with SAP's strategy, is to provide a modular system in which SAP contributes solutions for ERP processes and analytics, among other things, in first-class quality."

"For patient billing and clinical processes, we are giving our customers freedom of choice, including deployment, by providing hospital information system vendors with additional industry-standard supporting interfaces and, in general, the SAP Business Technology Platform (BTP) as an extension platform from next year.

"SAP also maintains its existing commitments for the SAP Patient Management (IS-H) solution; the product is based on SAP Business Suite and thus follows its current maintenance commitment. Our customers are thus designing their modular hospital IT system of the future," the spokesperson said. ®

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