Jul 24 2023

Smart Hospitals: Improved Patient Care and Interoperability

Connected medical devices, speedy 5G networks and artificial intelligence algorithms improve the patient experience at smart hospitals. But when it’s all connected, interoperability is key.

Health systems are turning to 5G networks, Internet of Things (IoT) devices and artificial intelligence (AI) as they leverage smart technology to streamline hospital operations and improve patient care.

However, tying these technologies together through interoperability between devices and disparate sources of data remains a central challenge for providers as the smart hospital continues to evolve.

“We’re finding ways to weave digital into the care experience, which fundamentally changes the way we interact with patients,” says Dr. Jeffrey Ferranti, chief digital officer and senior vice president of Duke University Health System. “We need to figure out ways to responsibly use these new tools, because they will be a part of medicine in the future.” 

He sees the emergence of generative AI as having manifold tie-ins to traditional digital health, noting that technologies like 5G networks and connected devices are all “arrows in the quiver” for improving patient experiences.

“We have to govern these things in a holistic way and deploy these technologies from a systems approach so that you have a platform that is cohesive across all environments,” Ferranti says.

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Kristin Myers, executive vice president, chief digital and information officer, and dean for digital and information technology for Mount Sinai Health System, notes that the organization already deploys AI chatbots to assist patients with appointment scheduling and personalized medicine.

“We have a number of predictive algorithms in place that improve clinical quality, safety and the patient experience around sepsis, and to deter patient deterioration,” she explains.

Meanwhile, IoT sensors monitor medical equipment and notify staff about potential failures or maintenance requirements in real time.

“That reduces downtime and ensures that critical devices are functioning optimally, reducing risks related to devices like smart pumps,” she notes.

IoT Impact in Smart Hospitals: From Bedside to Home Care

Dr. Harvey Castro, a physician and healthcare consultant, says that IoT has emerged as a crucial technology in intelligent hospitals.

“It plays an instrumental role in healthcare by connecting medical devices and systems, allowing for constant and accurate patient health monitoring,” he says.

Smart devices, including wearables, smart beds, biosensors and implanted monitors, help in continuous health tracking and the early detection of potential health issues.

“For instance, intelligent beds can monitor patient movements and alert nurses when a patient leaves the bed,” he says.

He adds that remote patient monitoring is gaining momentum, with smartwatches and fitness trackers becoming increasingly common tools.

These devices monitor vital health parameters such as heart rate, heartbeat and blood oxygen levels.

“Healthcare providers are turning to such devices to make proactive care choices based on data trends and predictions, revolutionizing personalized medicine and predictive healthcare,” Castro notes.

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Smart Hospitals Require Smart Investments in Smart Tech

David Graham, chief medical information officer at LifeBridge Health, says investment in smart hospital tech means that health IT leaders must think differently about budgets to allow expanded use of these tools.

“IoT has really blossomed to give us the opportunity to get more data on our patients, which we can then analyze using AI and machine learning tools,” he says.

He believes that technology such as 5G, IoT and AI will continue to improve patient care, and also will improve outcomes for providers, lowering burnout rates and making care delivery more effective.

“Many of the uses that we have been looking forward to for decades are here and are in our hands,” Graham says. “But you must be intentional about where you’re making your investments.”

From his perspective, health systems should take a more collaborative approach and share best practices to help other organizations make smart choices.

“More partnerships and a more collaborative approach will help those systems that are not quite as far along at this point,” he says.

DISCOVER: Learn why healthcare organizations must take command of their data.

The Importance of Interoperability in Smart Hospitals

Interoperability among health IT systems is vital to the smooth functioning of a smart hospital.

“The amalgamation of various systems and devices often leads to a complex network of technologies,” Castro explains. “Without interoperability, data collected from different systems could remain isolated or siloed, leading to inefficiencies and obstructing coordinated care.”

Recognizing this, healthcare industries worldwide are making strides toward adopting standards that enhance interoperability, including Health Level Seven International, a set of standards, formats and definitions for exchanging and developing electronic health records.

The emergence of the Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources standard also has been revolutionary. FHIR defines how healthcare information can be grouped and categorized, making it easier to share, integrate, retrieve and manage data across different systems.

“A seamless data and communication exchange between different healthcare systems and devices is critical for patient safety and clinical care,” Myers says. “You must have that integration between platforms internally within an organization, because it also enables a better patient experience.”

Getty Images (digital composite): gorodenkoff (woman), Natee Meepian (hands)
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