What is a smart hospital and how will smart hospitals change the future of healthcare?

 

Smart hospitals have a built-in technological infrastructure that focuses on gathering all relevant and useful data. This data is then recorded, uploaded, and finally utilised to implement support for staff and patients.


Smart hospitals: a counter to inefficiency

Advances in technology within the healthcare field have been extraordinary. From digital diagnostic to recordkeeping systems, technology is becoming increasingly used to provide clearer and easier methods to diligently carry out a variety of clinical duties. However, with the speed in which the progression of technological advances are undertaking, many hospitals are left without smart tech capabilities and continue to operate with delays or utilise laborious methods that are quickly becoming outdated. 

It is clear to anyone that hospitals have to master a multitude of tasks everyday to ensure a supportive and healthy environment for all their patients. Such tasks go beyond the initial face-to-face patient care and include many tasks that are, unfortunately, often forgotten or pushed to one side due to time restraints or prioritising immediate clinical concerns. With an inefficient exchange of data, essential everyday tasks become more laborious, from cleaning equipment, to logging reports, or allocating time with a patient, many aspects of hospital care can begin to lack in quality or wither altogether, and this is not surprising. 

As the population inevitably increases each year, there is an ongoing fear that the NHS is situated in a state of a perpetual staffing crisis. According to the Guardian, in 2021 statistics show that the number of unfilled posts across health services in England rose to 110,192, directly impacting on the time and availability that clinical workers have to effectively carry out their clinical duties and treat their patients. 

Smart hospitals aim to alleviate this problem by becoming ‘smart’ with their data. By obtaining a wealth of data from sources throughout the hospital, a smart hospital utilises this information to achieve a much more efficient way for all staff to spend their time and resources. This data-driven approach provides a full picture of real time events, saving time and resources to optimise patient care.


Milton Keynes University Hospital: a smart trial

As the National Library of Medicine records, “The quality of patient care is essentially determined by the quality of infrastructure, quality of training, competence of personnel and efficiency of operational systems. The fundamental requirement is the adoption of a system that is patient oriented”. In a recent pilot, Milton Keynes University Hospital (MKUH) joined with Haltian’s Empathic Building Smart Hospital Solution to trial the innovative thinking behind becoming a smart hospital. 

The Empathic Building solution (EBS) allows the hospital to create a digital twin of the building. Using this as a platform to obtain information quickly, the EBS solution focuses on using recorded data to better understand the way people work, providing a new methodology that focuses on improving both the maintenance of the hospital and patient care in general. “As populations grow and get older, the future of healthcare needs new solutions'' asserts Gunnar Hansen, Head of Smart Hospital and Managing Director of Haltian Norway. “In our smart hospital community, we connect the hospitals so they can share experiences and learn from each other”. Following Haltian’s reports, their smart solution aimed to utilise the tracked data from the monitoring of rooms and other spaces as well as location data of critical equipment, all to provide a plethora of real-time data.


A smart future: the whole picture

This real-time data allows for a streamline progression for all tasks, ensuring the clinical personnel are able to concentrate on their patient. This perhaps highlights the most beneficial aspect of a smart hospital. With a consistent stream of data being gathered from all areas, each and every staff member can always be aware of ongoing events, varying from a surface or station requiring a clean, to locating any lost equipment. Simply put; the data gathered can be utilised to provide the full picture.

Integrating technology in the workplace is becoming ubiquitous across a multitude of sectors as we progress towards a technology filled future. As technological advances rapidly gather momentum in all aspects of society, many research and development teams are attempting to synchronise technology with their product to best suit the future market. Sterizen®, for example, specialises in hand hygiene with a specific focus on healthcare and have recently manufactured and produced the all new Z1 handwashing station which features a fully inclusive smart-tech option, perfectly fitting the data-driven blueprint for a smart hospital.   

Utilising devices like this, a data-driven hospital gathers information throughout the day to direct operations, helping streamline the multitude of tasks that need to be completed in the everyday running of a hospital. In practice, recorded data would be able to provide a guide for the most efficient course of action, from managing patient flow, equipment, to maintenance management. “This data allows us to make more informed decisions in the way that we work, ensuring that we have the right people and solutions in place at the right time” states Clair Orchard, Digital and information manager at MKUH.