Like with many other industries, technology and data collection are fundamentally altering the way our healthcare systems function. These patient centric models are designed to optimise the way resources are used inside a hospital so as to improve patient comfort, cost and, ultimately, health outcomes.
But there are other reasons why the development of smart hospitals are so important. In a world where our global population continues to rise, alongside the demand for quality healthcare, redesigning hospital infrastructure to achieve better operational efficiency will be key to addressing increasing pressures on our healthcare systems.
What exactly makes a hospital “smart”?
To function as a smart hospital three key things are required: data, insight, and access. The first part, data, can come from a variety of places. This includes factors such as the number of free beds, how many people are waiting for treatment, medical equipment supplies, and how infections or illness rates are changing – to name but a few.
There is no short supply of data we can collect in today’s world. What’s more, is easier than ever to sort and does not need to be imputed into a computer manually in most instances anymore. Instead, by getting patients to record health data using wearables, inputting IoT sensors to review features such as energy usage throughout the hospital, or using electronic health records to aggregate all patient information are just three examples of how the digital transformation is benefitting healthcare facilities.
It’s integrating this data that’s slightly more difficult. Healthcare data constitutes a form of personal data and so must be anonymised in line with data protection laws in each jurisdiction. Then, once no one can be identified using this data, it all needs to be fed into machine learning or other analytics software to work harmoniously together and give an accurate, real time view of what is happening within the hospital.
Finally, this information needs to be accessible to doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals via smart devices such as a desktop, tablet, or smartphone so that these people can make critical decisions faster.
With more information readily available at their fingertips, it is much easier for healthcare workers to make sure resources are being used effectively and that all patients can access the tools they need to help them recover so that they can be discharged (where appropriate) in a timely manner. Otherwise, there is the risk that this vital information gets stuck in siloes and that healthcare becomes even more disjointed.
Real world examples of smart hospitals
One of the smartest hospitals in the world is the Humber River Valley Hospital in Canada. This hospital was North America’s first fully-digital hospital containing features such as electronic path lab tests ordering and results, automated pharmacy systems, and a RIVA chemotherapy robot. Similarly, in Calvary Adelaide Hospital in Australia, automated lighting and energy monitoring systems are expected to create energy savings of 60%.
The pandemic has also played a key role in accelerating the digitisation of hospitals – highlighting the importance of advanced technology in emergency situations and the need to conduct appointments using technology to reduce transmission of viruses.
For example, in 2020, the Mayo Clinic in the US partnered with technology company Medically Home, with the aim to deliver advanced care, typically received at the hospital, to patients’ homes. Together, under the new service, patients were able to access laboratory and imaging services, rehabilitation services, and skilled nursing all from the comfort of their own home. This led the hospital to be ranked the number one smart hospital in the world by Newsweek in 2021.
As hospitals now face a backlog of patients, delayed tests and treatments, working through this problem using technology is hugely important – especially to avoid staff burnout and avoid unnecessary deaths.
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