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Hospitals and Smart Technologies: Healing the Smart Way

The quality of healthcare provided by countries to its citizens has direct bearing on the nation’s progress and a key socio-economic indicator of its prosperity. It is estimated that healthcare spending account for 10.6% of global GDP. From being $7 trillion in 2015 to an estimated $18 trillion by 2040, Global Healthcare expenditure is one key area for policymakers. The Healthcare industry in all major countries, both developed and developing are confronted by twin issues.

One is the rapid growth of population and second, an aging population, due to increased longevity, thanks to better medical facilities and improved living conditions. Japan serves as the best example in this case. According to 2014 estimates, 33.0% of the Japanese population is above the age of 60, 25.9% are aged 65 or above, 12.5% are aged 75 or above.

Estimates by UN report suggests that people aged 60 or more will 22% of world population by 2050, a year where our population would peak 9.7 billion according to a new UN DESA report. Add to it the dwindling working age population who would be required to support the ageing population. The statistics speak volumes about the need for robust healthcare system which is geared towards needs of coming times.

Smart hospitals- The why of it.

Chronic cases are on ascendance. Medical staff shortages, lack of professionals, regulatory constraints, and better informed patients with expectations on better health facilities are putting a strain on government agencies and posing a challenge in policy formulation. Life expectancy has increased by 5 years between 2000 and 2015, fastest since the 60’s era. Healthcare will account for 21% of GDP in Europe alone by 2050. Developing countries are bound to feel the pinch, with less access to technology and advanced healthcare ecosystems.

Closer home, in India, we have 0.6 doctor per 1000 habitants. Even in the US, reimbursement models are scrutinizing the value of care delivered and satisfaction of patient. Informed patients are looking for a more satisfactory; relationship based healing touch in the whole treatment journey. With such issues staring at us, it becomes important for hospitals to evolve efficiently and in the smart way. In all this, patient care has to be the focus of changing paradigms. It is therefore, safe to conclude that smart hospitals are an imperative rather than a choice. Integration of technology in providing relief to the ailing will be the future of health care.

The digital embrace within hospital walls

The increased use of digital applications supported by sophisticated sensory networks are altering the face of modern healthcare systems. It fits into the modern concept of P4 medicine which stands for medication based on preventive, participatory, predictive and a personalized approach, and is a more holistic one. The physical-digital ecosystem is showing promising gains. A cursory look at various technologies being employed is essential.

  • Big Data – Often the voluminous data that researchers and professionals have to juggle leads to flawed outcomes and no substantial gain in treatment methodology. It is here that hospitals and healthcare system are showing a renewed zeal to accept digitalization. Big data is responsible for turning medical science into data intensive science. Using analytics, patterns can be obtained, linkages drawn and breakthrough in cases can be achieved.
  • IoT integration in healthcare– Progress made can be checked remotely, without the need to be physically available at the clinic, effects of treatment observed and understood by patients. Hospitals can thereby offer more personalization, a proactive engagement and cut out readmission. Care offered can be improved as real time patient information is readily available leading to improved diagnosis. Patients can be tracked using wearable devices; symptoms can alert doctors and remedial measures taken. Not to mention the cost reduction it brings to the table.
  • Smart Hospital Information system– Hospitals are upgrading themselves by incorporating customized software to manage clinical staff, financial records, streamline set of diagnostic procedures, to improve inter communication between disparate departments and create a more patient friendly environment.
  • Chatbots for patient care– Today more and more hospitals are employing chatbots to automate processes, reduce glitches in customer interaction, check delays. From appointments, delivering information on illness, prescribing medicines and many other functions in user friendly ways.

Success stories around the globe

Hospitals are waking up to the need of smart technology in a big way. In the healthcare structure, hospitals have become an inseparable component, and the building where the healing takes places is renovating, innovating to act as a staff rather than just a monolithic edifice of brick and mortar! The workflow inside premises has undergone a sea of change. Also, impetus is being given to patient centric models of treatment.

Owing to this, healthcare establishment or providers are willing to invest into these futuristic models and reduce their overall cost. Some examples are inspirational and serve as guide. Philips, which has been at the forefront of innovation in healthcare, developed a new delivery concept, at the Woman-Mother-Child center at Maxima hospital, in Netherlands. To make the delivery experience one of a kind for the expecting mother, it supports the mother and her partner, with lighting animations and smart phone application.

Karolinska University Hospital in Sweden is known for its new state-of-the art imaging solutions and services. Alder Hey Children’s Hospital located in Liverpool, the Axis Flo-Motion Doors have integral venetian blinds and slide on fingertip pressure. Senior VP (IT), Joseph Touey, at GlaxoSmithKline, is of the view that by 2020 “we will have a healthcare delivery system that is fully digitised. There will be the emergence of real-time analytics. Everybody wins from a patient care perspective with improved information sharing and interoperability.”

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