COVID-19 is becoming another catalyst around smart hospital discussions. Goals such as better contact tracing, more accurate tracking of hospital assets, including equipment, supplies and people, and the perennial problem of limited budgets, hospital administrators and government authorities are calling for better ways of containing rising costs and declining efficiencies and effectiveness.
At its core, a smart hospital is an interconnected organization, where patient health metrics, test results, and other data are quickly and easily accessible by physicians who have access to state-of-the-art technology to better act on those data.
Making this a reality will rely on coordinating technology from a variety of sectors, says GlobalData.
Dominic Tong, senior medical devices analyst at GlobalData says a good example of the need for smart hospitals to have interconnectivity across different technologies comes from the increasing adoption of robots in hospitals.
“These include delivery robots to move medication and medical devices around, robots that can assist doctors and nurses in moving patients, and surgical robots that assist physicians or perform procedures.”
“Though different in function, all these robots need to be able to be controlled and monitored at all times to ensure the hospital is functioning properly. The monitoring of the robots would be handled first by computer software, as such, hospitals would need fewer humans to monitor their network of robots,” he continued.
The backbone of a smart hospital
The backbone of the smart hospital will be its network infrastructure. These hospitals will need robust intrahospital networks to be able to quickly get, transfer, and deliver data between devices and departments, as needed.
Intrahospital networks will also need to be robust enough to support a variety of medical devices, ranging from on-patient sensors to magnetic resonance imaging scanners, which will need to be constantly connected.
5G has the potential to solve these problems, while also allowing fast interhospital connections. These can then be used for specialist consultations for patients or physicians, further improving treatment efficiency.
Tong says the technology required for enabling smart hospitals is largely already available, but the implementation will require a substantial investment from all stakeholders.
He added that medical device manufacturers will need to ensure that new devices are effective and secure against cyber-attacks while remaining easy to use.
“Hospitals will need to prioritize investing in areas that offer the most return while ensuring that their basic information technology infrastructure is sufficient and secure. Telecoms will need to invest in upgrades across their network to fully enable the potential of 5G and the smart hospital,” he concluded.