Smart Hospitals – Part 1: Designing the future

by Dimitrios Gontzes

 

The term “smart hospital” might sound like another buzzword that businesses use, but the idea behind it is solid and, given the digital technology advances, very tangible. The introduction of Internet of Things, the development of sophisticated software and the need for more personalised care are pushing “traditional” hospitals to transform in terms of interoperability and legacy systems. The Smart mantra can be summarised in a simple question: “How do we leverage real time information to achieve clinical excellence and enhanced patient experience?” That’s essentially what Smart Hospitals are trying to answer.

In this two part blog I will first lay out what a Smart Hospital is and define the assets that form the starting point for implementation. The second part will focus on the benefits to the healthcare system, the inherit security and data protection dangers and the ways to protect organisations from them.

First things first. According to the European Union Agency for Network and Information Security (ENISA), a smart hospital is a hospital that relies on optimised and automated processes built on an ICT environment of interconnected assets, particularly based on Internet of things (IoT), to improve existing patient care procedures and introduce new capabilities. The overarching objectives of a smart hospital are to provide enhanced patient care including remote medical care, enable efficient patient and medical information flow and boost diagnostic, surgical and organisation intelligence capabilities while ensuring patient safety and cyber resilience.

The key to unlocking the Smart capabilities lies in the assets of a hospital. It may be too obvious, but networking equipment such as Wi-Fi and routing protocols are essential components that ensure connectivity throughout the hospital premises. Networked clinical information systems and medical devices are the heart of a smart hospital and the first step to implementation. Clinical information systems should be able to connect with each other as well as with medical devices to seamlessly exchange information. Wearable medical technologies and mobile devices can provide real time precise health data and enable further remote health care and connection with healthcare professionals. The ability to track and authenticate patients, staff and devices is also of paramount importance in a smart hospital. Identification systems may include tags, Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), CCTV cameras, biometric scanners and others. The foundation of a smart hospital relies on the effective co-operation of this triumvirate.

But we should not stop here. These assets generate a lot of data – data that can inform healthcare professionals about the status of a patient and, when analysed from an operational perspective, can provide valuable insights into the organisation’s performance and patients’ experience. Therefore, smart hospitals must have ways to analyse, protect and store this data and translate them into valuable information (see blog). Finally, mobile client devices (e.g. emergency apps) and remote care systems (tele-monitoring, medical equipment for drug distribution) can enhance the reach of care make the right information available to staff and patients.

So, here you have it, the Smart Hospital broken down into assets. But what is the value of this transformation to the organisation and to patients? And equally importantly, what are the risks and protective measures of a smart ecosystem? Join me at my next blog and you will find out.