SMART Hospitals – Are You Ready?

Smart Hospitals

Hey, thanks for stopping by to read our thoughts regarding 5 amazing healthcare technologies that we think are pretty amazing.

Although the digital revolution has been around in many industries for well over a decade, healthcare digitization has lagged.

Now, Smart Hospitals have arrived

New technologies are shaping the way hospitals manage patient care.

In Acute Care Hospitals, healthcare has largely been delivered in the same way for the last 100 years. A lot of folks look back at how things used to be done and keep doing it the same way.

On the other hand, tech companies have looked at a different way of doing things – think of Amazon in the online retail industry; Uber in the transportation world; and, AirBnB in the online marketplace for accommodation bookings. They all strive to achieve the most efficient way of operating, and they do it through technology.

Consider this: In 2013, more than 200,000 patients got infections while receiving healthcare in Canada. More than 8,000 of these patients died as a result. Surely, in this day and age, there are technology, programs and equipment to drastically reduce these rates? The Public Health Agency of Canada states, “Best practices in preventing infection can reduce the risk of some infections to close to zero”.1

Clearly, there is a lot of work to do on multiple fronts for advancing patient care, and a lot can be done by using technology!

Hospitals using technology

So what are our top picks for how hospitals are advancing? Here is a look at take on the top 3 features these ‘Hospitals of the future’ employ:

  • Digital Patient Experience
  • Smart Workflows
  • Telehealth Programs and Software to Reduce Hospitalization Rates

An example of a hospital using technology to improve patient care and operations efficiencies is the new Humber River Hospital in Toronto, which has hailed itself as ‘the first fully digital hospital in North America.’

Digital patient experience

To be truly digital means not just having robots, but engaging patients outside your four walls. When we say digital, we mean understanding and interacting with the patient in a digital world. Patients are more comfortable during their time at the hospital through digital design.

Using Humber River as an example, patients can:

  • Access their medical chart
  • Adjust the room temperate
  • Make phone calls from touchpads at each of the hospital’s 650 beds

Robots also deliver supplies like linens and food to patients’ beds. It goes even further than that, from patient kiosks to medicine-dispensing robotic arms. And get this; to make sure patients aren’t getting the wrong medicine, HRRH also uses a digital management system that counts, organizes, and checks the expiration dates of all the drugs at the hospital!

Here’s another cool example of technology – smart beds, which allow nurses to monitor sleeping patients.

Hospital rooms of the future will include Skype-like technology to give patients 24/7 connections outside the hospital, such as conferring with their doctors or giving distant family members real-time updates.

Smart workflows

By smart workflows, we mean technology systems and medical devices that speak directly to each other.

The new Mackenzie Vaughan Hospital project (opening in 2020) is working on 75 smart workflows to improve and change the way that caregivers work. For example, one smart workflow focuses on Code Blue (cardiac arrest) response.

This is how it might work:

  • Through integrated technology, the vital signs monitor will send an alert directly to the Critical Care Response Team
  • The team members will be wearing smart real-time location services (RTLS) badges that will automatically override the elevators once they are in proximity, saving valuable time
  • At the same time the alert is triggered, the bed will automatically return to a flat position, to allow for resuscitation, and the IV pump will stop dispensing narcotics that may cause respiratory depression
  • A summary of the patient’s medical record will also appear on the room display, for caregivers’ easy reference.

Telehealth programs and software to reduce hospitalization rates

Hospitals will use technology to reduce costs, make care more convenient for patients, and connect people to their specialists.

Technology exists for Smart devices to transmit data from scales and blood pressure cuffs directly into a patient’s medical record. Telemedicine vendors have created secure video conferencing systems for online communication.

GE Healthcare CEO John Flannery says that before long, we even might start to think about medical devices (such as MRI or X-ray machines) in the same way we think about our smartphones. That is, the physical device might be less important than what the software inside the phone can do.

Philips and Banner Health (Arizona) recently announced the results of a pilot study that investigated how telehealth solutions can support connected health initiatives and better manage care for patients with multiple chronic conditions.

The research found that the overall costs of care decreased by 34.5 percent due to the reduction in:

  • hospitalization rates
  • length of stay
  • professional services
  • outpatient costs

Before the program, there were 10.9 hospitalizations per 100 patients per month. After the program, that dropped to 5.5 hospitalizations, which equates to a 49.5 percent decrease. In addition, the average length of stay decreased by 50 percent, and the 30-day readmission rate fell by 75 percent.2

Reduce re-admissions:

Re-admissions have been identified as a leading factor in financial waste, as well as a major strain on healthcare resources.

In Canada, 8% to 10% of patients are readmitted within 30 days; in the U.S., the rate for Medicare recipients was 18% in 2013, at a total cost of US$26 billion.”3

Regardless of location, the problems contributing to re-admissions are identical. These can include:

  • Clerical mistakes
  • Improper record keeping
  • Insufficient patient education
  • Communication gaps

Once the patient exits the hospital, essentially the patient-hospital connection is severed, and the patient may lose or misinterpret post-care instructions, resulting in readmission.

This is where new technologies shine. These are not “healthcare” technologies per say, but rather technologies that facilitate communication and logistics.

Existing vs new hospitals and integration

We all know that with these ground-breaking things identified, starting from scratch is usually easier than trying to change something that is already completed and in place. The same goes for implementing digital technology in hospitals.

But does that mean you can’t retrofit your hospital with digital technology?

Not at all. There are numerous software and systems you can still achieve in existing hospitals.

Take Mackenzie Health, for example. They opened a 34-bed unit In order to test before committing. This “innovation unit” tested the latest technologies and where the successful ones could be implemented into other areas of the hospital (or integrated into the new facility in Vaughan).

They started by upgrading their wired and wireless networks. With these faster connections, they were able to install video communication stations in patient rooms.

Approaching digital technology in this way allows you to figure out which technologies are the best fit for your facility and staff, without having to break the bank.

We don’t have to build a new hospital to do this. You really can retrofit legacy hospitals as long as you have infrastructure capable of it,” says Aviv Gladman, Mackenzie’s chief medical information officer. “We’re not rushing to do too many things at once.”4


We believe that we are at the cusp of the most important turning point in healthcare history, in terms of changing the patient care game through technology, and, thus the overall healthcare system in Canada indirectly.

Every time you see or do a process that has “always been done that way,” chances are there is a new technology out there waiting for you to discover it – one that eliminates the challenges you currently face.

It’s not a case of if but rather when. These technological advances seem innovative right now, but in ten to twenty years time, they will be standard issues.

How are you using digital technology to improve patient care and operations at your facility?

We would love to know!



Footnotes & References


2 Comments on “SMART Hospitals – Are You Ready?”

  1. Eileen George

    Sounds very great, just curious how the patients feel about this futuristic approach to healthcare.
    Visual diagnostic aids by a trained observer is irreplaceable.

    1. Brad Samuels

      Eileen, we had the opportunity to speak with the Executive Vice President Sales & Marketing at IPA, a company that implements automated scrub dispensing technology in operating rooms, regarding the feedback they’ve had. They’ve had a lot of experience with caregivers, surgeons, and managers while implementing automation and technology in hospitals. They pointed out that while there is always resistance to change, as a society we are moving more digital and as consumers we are becoming more comfortable with less human interaction. They highlighted examples such as using kiosks at the airport, ATM’s at the bank, and self-checkout machines at the grocery store. There is certainly there is a lot of things to think about from your observations, because healthcare is so different, so it will be interesting to see!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *