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What is a smart hospital?

May 27, 2021

The paradigm of patient care is changing.

A wealth of technologies such as robotics, artificial intelligence (AI), three-dimensional printing, precision medicine, augmented and virtual reality, telemedicine and genomics can now be integrated into care delivery, leading to reduced costs and increased precision and efficiency.

Those technologies have already altered consumer expectations. Patients increasingly look for healthcare services that are delivered more efficiently, in convenient, comfortable settings.

From Canada to Finland, Singapore, Australia and beyond1, hospitals are adapting to meet these changing standards and levels of ability. They’re becoming ‘smart’—embedding new technologies into their designs and operations in order to improve outcomes, costs and the patient experience.2

So what is a smart hospital and how can it improve patient care? Read on to find out.

How Did You Get So Smart?

A 2019 article in the Global Health Journal described smart healthcare as a system that uses technology, such as wearable devices and mobile internet, to access information and connect the people, materials and institutions related to healthcare.3

Smart healthcare can promote interaction between all participants in a health-related conversation. It can help patients get the services they need, help caregivers make informed decisions, and facilitate the productive allocation of resources.3

Healthcare IT News, a publication of Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) Media, wrote that smart hospitals improve, redesign or build new clinical processes, management systems and perhaps infrastructure—with an underlying, digitized network of assets—to provide valuable, otherwise unavailable services or insights. This is all done to improve operational efficiency, patient care and the patient experience.1

That article noted that going smart means more than going paperless, which the author called a great achievement—and a step in a larger process that gives hospitals complete alignment of clinical processes and management systems.

Making Patient Care More Patient-centric

Thanks to rising education and literacy levels, expanded internet access and the increased use of digital devices, people worldwide are becoming more informed and more empowered to make healthcare decisions. Where we used to receive treatment passively, we’re now more likely to request further information, and we expect to be involved in treatment choices. We can articulate whether we want (and can afford) hospitalization or prefer alternative options, and it’s no longer unusual to see patients and providers making joint decisions about hospitalization.2

As hospitals get smart, so to speak, new technologies that enable online consultations, multidisciplinary team support and other new models of care delivery are helping them become more patient-centric.

When patient care moves from consultation to treatment, smart hospitals are empowered to improve the patient experience before, during and after appointments and admission. For example:2

  1. Before arriving at the hospital, a patient can use wearables or remote-sensing devices to detect and record blood pressure in real time. The devices automatically warn the patient of any unusual readings. The patient can upload the data and communicate with online staff, who can help identify an appropriate specialist and confirm an appointment.
  2. Upon arrival, the patient can verify his/her identity via ID card, fingerprint or facial recognition. The IT system greets the patient and performs automated triage, noting the patient’s insurance in the record. The patient is then informed where to go next, what examination(s) will be forthcoming, and what instructions to follow. After all exams are complete, the system automatically delivers the results to the patient.
  3. After treatment, all of the patient’s data can be aggregated on a cloud platform in order to generate a report on current treatment. Using a mobile device, the patient can check results at any time, receive reminders about medication compliance and notifications about upcoming care, rehabilitation services and insurance issues. By using a telehealth platform, caregivers can regularly assess the patient’s recovery progress and provide consultations as needed.

Improving Non-acute Care

Canadian IT service provider Compugen is working with Mackenzie Health Foundation, outside of Toronto, as it pursues a $250 million fundraising goal4 to equip two hospitals with smart capabilities.

In non-emergent situations, smart technology can manage and improve the workflow for caregivers, which reduces wait times for patients and improves continuity of care. Consider a situation in which a doctor or nurse’s availability to work changes at the last minute. A smart hospital will be automatically equipped to:5

  • Schedule a replacement
  • Notify the replacement worker where s/he is needed
  • Send all relevant medical history to that individual’s mobile device
  • Provide the patient’s primary care team with a copy of any resulting consultations

Smart Capabilities and Acute Care

Today, according to Compugen,5 when members of a hospital’s Code Blue team hear the alarm, they must be directed to the patient’s bedside to begin assessment and, if needed, initiate advanced cardiac life support and resuscitation.

With smart technology:

  • In-room devices immediately capture signs of distress
  • On mobile devices, the closest available Code Blue team receives an urgent alert that includes precise patient location, physical directions and specific clinical information
  • Caregivers’ movement toward the patient is accelerated through dedicated express elevators that are redirected to meet them and take them directly to the destination floor
  • In the patient's room:
    • Automated IV pumps halt delivery of non-essential medications
    • The patient’s bed is repositioned to facilitate resuscitation
    • Blinds and lights automatically adjust to make the room as bright as possible
    • Relevant patient information is displayed on in-room screens
    • Care providers can utilize those screens and other in-room devices to expedite communication with other specialists within and outside the hospital

In these ways among others, smart technology can save crucial time, reduce costs and provide better chances of patient survival.

Smart Hospitals Need Smart Professionals.

Learn to improve patient care and patient outcomes by advancing diagnostics and treatment. Earn Kent State online master's degree or postbaccalaureate certificate in health informatics. Review the classes and talk with an Admissions Advisor today.