The Smart Way of Healing

Though Indian healthcare providers are introducing a slew of measures to enhance efficiency and optimise their resources for best outcomes, they have a long way to traverse before metamorphosing into truly smart hospitals.

Patient-centricity is slowly gaining prominence in Indian healthcare and has led to the emergence of a new concept called ‘smart hospitals’. But, how is it defined? Succinctly put, it is about creating streamlined, optimised healing environments for best outcomes.

Patient-centricity is slowly gaining prominence in Indian healthcare and has led to the emergence of a new concept called ‘smart hospitals’. But, how is it defined? Succinctly put, it is about creating streamlined, optimised healing environments for best outcomes. “Smart hospitals are those that effectively and efficiently use and leverage technology and data to ensure high quality medical care which is sensitive, proactive, consistent, repeatable and sustainable,” says Anil V Pillai, Director of Terragni Consulting, a healthcare management firm. Explaining the concept further, he states, “The fundamental tenet of being a ‘smart’ hospital is that it has to cover four essential dimensions. It has to be: patient experience focused, employee focused, organisation focused, and innovation focused.” Pillai elaborates on the smart hospital concept:

  • All its clinical, data and technology systems are integrated seamlessly
  • The hospital has invested in technology and maintains these technologies to ensure that three key challenges of patient care are met:
    • Aleviate patient and care-giver anxiety
    • Ensure patients play a participatory role in their own healthcare
    • Connectivity, information and data flow between hospital medical systems, patients, care givers, medical, nursing teams are seamless.

Talking about the benefits offered by a ‘smart hospital’, Barun Pal Chowdhury, Director – Design Build, Shapoorji Pallonji informs, “Smart hospital can lead to higher efficiency of doctors and other support staff. Additionally, security and patient safety gets more prominence while building high level of patient satisfaction. This will bring transparency, reliability and efficiency in the growing healthcare industry.” Dapper and dynamic designing

So, how do we go about designing a smart hospital? Well, the key is to design set ups that are dynamic and engaging, combining architecture and technology. Thus, while creating smart hospital spaces, the design should enable hospital environments to be interactive as it would aid the hospital staff to do a superior job, more swiftly. The infrastructure should cater to the individualised needs of patients and amplify the opportunities to expand treatment options. They must also have a distinct focus on connectivity, communication, and access to information to enhance the quality and safety of patient care, reduce inefficiencies and ensure improved management and administration within the hospital.

As Dr Satish Prasad Rath, Chief Innovation Manager, Healthcare Research, Xerox Innovation Group (XIG) underlines, “Hospitals are now turning into health preserving entities and are teaming up with a network of interdisciplinary teams to maintain the health of a community. Investment will be needed in upgrading infrastructure to new age patient centric health record systems. The hospitals need to co-create this new era of medicine in participation with patients, technology firms, medical devices firms and pharmaceuticals.

Chowdhury explains, “To have a complete ‘smart hospital’, the infrastructure and technology has to support each other. An integrated system is the requirement of the day. Systems need to ‘talk’ to each other and share information. An intelligent healthcare infrastructure builds efficiency across an organisation.” He further informs, “The most important criterion of a smart hospital is seamless and paperless communication between various departments, personnel and communication devices. This translates into high level of infrastructure and technological support.”

Thus, a smart hospital should be characterised by:

Avant-garde technology

The last decade has witnessed a burgeoning romance between IT and healthcare. The marvels of IT are fast revolutionising healthcare delivery. Dr Rath opines that gone are the days when healthcare was reactive and confined to hospital-centered episodes. He says, “Nowadays, with technological advances, we can understand an individual’s personalised profile by analysing his pedigree, his social profile, his genomic profile, his past medical encounters from electronic medical records (EMR) and his quantified self view from his personal health record (PHR).”

“The healthcare industry is increasingly reliant on technology for the delivery of services to patients which has led to an increasing amount of intelligence within hospitals,” claims Subhasish Gupta, Country Manager – India & SAARC at Allied Telesis, a company providing networking infrastructure and interoperable network solutions. “The network has become a critical factor in the landscape of patient care. Quality care and affordable healthcare services can only be delivered profitably by utilising digital technology connected by a secure and reliable IP network,” emphasises Gupta.

Agreeing with this view, Chowdhury states, “Systems integration and systems design are the critical elements in designing a smart hospital. Various departments, such as the nurse call station, the radiology dept, the pathology labs, the scanning centres, etc., have to be seamlessly integrated keeping in mind the workflow of the clinicians so that they can work more efficiently. Elements such as mobile devices, smart boards, and wireless protocols have to be incorporated. Network connection is also something which is vital in this kind of design. Flexibility of IT infrastructure has to be kept in mind so as to accommodate and adapt to technology advancement.”

He further informs, “Some innovations such as tracking devices and smart boards can be important elements of a smart hospital. Patients can be tagged with tracking devices and these can also be synced with the electronic or ‘smart boards’ which can allow the caregivers as well as the relatives of the patient to know the whereabouts of the patient, e.g. when they are in the scanning centres or out of the OT, etc. Cloud support can also be incorporated in the design of a smart hospital. A patient’s records, lab reports, doctor’s notes can all be stored in the cloud so that no matter where the patient is, the attending doctor can call up the information at the tap of a button. This means that information is available ‘just-in-time’ when and where required!”

Looking at the growing potential for intelligent IT in healthcare, companies like Allied Telesis and Xerox are offering innovations aimed at making healthcare delivery simple yet effective.

Gupta highlights that Allied Telesis offers include intelligent wireless networks which enable clinicians to move among patients with a tablet-type technology for rapid access to all manner of information and IP telephony that enables staff to be contactable anywhere in the facility, rather than only at their desks.

He says, “Allied Telesis has a number of innovative technologies that deliver the performance, intelligence and security required within smart hospitals. We have couple of deployments in KPC Medical College, MGM University (Medical College and Hospital) and KIMS-Hubli. With our network security technology, the organisations can access operational data from the same place. Besides, security is enhanced as access to the network is limited to personnel with the appropria
te rights. The organisations achieved high performance, security and greater network efficiency at a low cost. The solution greatly increased network efficiency.”

Dr Rath too highlights, “Xerox is working on analytics driven intelligent tools that will work for employee wellness, ICU admission prediction, post discharge readmission prevention and personalised care plans. These intelligent tools will empower existing hospitals to increase their services and care delivery without physically increasing their beds and take care of menace of chronic diseases through home monitoring.”

Blackberry sees a lot of potential in the healthcare sector as well. It is investing in NantHealth, a healthcare platform. In an interview with Express Computer, Annie Mathew, Director, Alliances and Business Development, BlackBerry says, “Technology and mobility will play a crucial role in revolutionising the healthcare system and propelling the next phase of growth in India.” Hospit

als too are eagerly adopting new-age technology and integrating them into their infrastructure. For instance, Aster Medcity, a quaternary care hospital based in Kochi, was recently in the news for introducing a system called ‘Bill Buddy’. It helps to update patients regarding their treatment expenditures and on the spot payment. A hotline number is provided to each patient, bystander or relative, which can be used by them whenever they want to avail of this facility. The portable bill counter will then reach the patients room post which, the bill settlement and payment can be undertaken on the spot. This will eliminate the difficulty faced by the patients and bystanders of hunting for the right counter, waiting in long queues during payment.

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