What’s a smart hospital? It is better patient experience and improved efficiency for services and care processes that ensures seamless flow and access to relevant information for both healthcare providers and patients.

As of today that world is just a click away. In the era where adoption of smart technologies such as mobile applications, tablet PCs and wearables in healthcare seem to be the new norm and investments in digital infrastructure and connecting devices are on the surge, this dream of a smart hospital is no longer distant. However, every hospital aspiring to become smart needs to know how to plan well ahead and build strategy, select and implement smart technologies and transform delivery processes. Key objectives for a smart hospital are seamless patient flow, improved clinical processes and ability, remote patient care, access to the right information for the right people at the right time from anywhere, and enhanced patient safety.

Improving Patient Experience

Using smart technologies for a better patient experience begins well before the patient arrives in the hospital by using smart mobile applications and patient portals, allowing patients to provide and update required personal information, insurance details and relevant clinical history, including lab reports and allergies. Patients will also be able to search for apt physicians, view their credentials, make bookings, receive reminders, and cancel or reschedule appointments.

Smart parking apps will enable them to locate vacant parking spaces, with the facility to book and pay, helping patients escape the tedious task of finding vacant parking lots. Patient kiosks integrated with a queue management system will enable patients to not just self-check-in with a smartcard and get token numbers, but also receive location directions to departments or procedure rooms where they have appointments. Registration desks equipped with eSignature pads and payment machines would help them read and sign on required consent forms and would make advance payments for services. At the time of admission, the patients would be tagged with an electronic wristband that allows doctors and nurses to track their vital signs, medication times and sleep patterns remotely and receive alerts if anything is abnormal to take necessary actions.

Patient rooms can be equipped with a large, flat screen monitor that will not only offer entertainment such as TV, video games, or internet, but also patient education content and instructions about their health condition or a pending procedure. They will also be able to access dietary services, order their meal and receive reminders about upcoming appointments. A smart digital screen in front of the room could display vital information about the patient including care provider name and allergies if any.

Improving Care Processes and Support Services

A well-integrated Electronic Medical Record (EMR) connected to medical devices, point of care devices and investigation equipment could be automated, documenting clinical data including physiological parameters, investigation reports, images and videos and make it accessible through a single source. This will allow the care providers to access information relevant to patient care at the right time from anywhere in the hospital network.

The use of RFID and barcode-assisted blood transfusion and drug administration, smart infusion pumps that can document infusion details and robotic drug dispensing machines and lab instruments are a few other examples of smart technology applications that can not only improve patient safety but also enhance clinical processes efficiency.

Building a Smart Strategy

A well-thought-out smart hospital strategy should be directed towards building or transforming the hospital into a facility that will provide excellence in clinical outcomes, efficiency in operations and enhancement of patient experience.

Building a smart hospital strategy is more than just bringing together smart devices and applications connected to high-speed networking infrastructure. The strategy should also aim to redefine the care processes and operational procedures, and redesign physical infrastructure to drive a new way of delivering care.

Smart hospitals require a complete revisit of how different patient services are offered within the hospital. For example, building patient rooms equipped with patient infotainment systems redefines how information related to patients’ conditions, procedures, medications and treatments are disseminated to them in addition to providing entertainment. Investing in Kiosks and patient portals redefine how patients are being registered, checked in and make payments, which enhances operational efficiency and patient experience

The patient care delivery process is another area that needs to be re-designed to meet smart hospital requirements. Healthcare mobile applications, sensors and wearable monitoring and communication devices are transforming the way patients interact with providers. These smart applications and devices can shift some of the care processes beyond hospital settings, either at satellite health centers or even at a patient’s home. While surgical robots improve the accuracy and efficiency of procedures, certain new treatment methods such as micro-surgeries are available now, which cannot be done by clinicians. Multispecialty team-based care models across hospitals are now easier, with the ability to share and monitor patient information and stream images and videos.

The design of logistics and support services workflow should be considered along with the availability of smart technologies, such as RFID and secured wireless networks, which can be used to identify, track and report on locations and the utilization of hospital resources. Robotics in pharmacies and laboratories that automate the majority of the workflow processes requires design as well as physical infrastructure. These technologies transform the way logistics and support services are managed while minimizing waste and reducing cost.

Smart hospitals should also give adequate focus on people management, training and adoption to take full advantage of digital capabilities and smart technologies. Leaders must think through how the smart hospital transformation will affect management systems, governance and technical competencies among its people. A solid governance model that facilitates collaboration between technical and clinical staff is required for the successful implementation of smart technologies and to achieve a smart hospital vision.

It’s not just technology that builds a smart hospital; the right strategy demands us to get a bit smarter in how we implement it.