The Future of Care: How Hospitals are Undergoing a “Smart” Transformation

Abhinav Shashank
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When the concept of digital hospital and EHRs first came into the picture, the initial goal was to enhance the efficiency of back-office operations. However, EHR adoption continued to increase post-implementation of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) in 2009. Now after almost a decade, digitization in healthcare has continued to evolve, and electronic records have started serving a higher purpose than being a handbook for patient records. Thanks to continuous improvements in healthcare technology, smart hospitals are here to lead the future of care management and boost patient engagement in the process.  

Trends Driving Smart Hospitals

After the enactment of the Affordable Care Act, healthcare started moving albeit gradually to a value-based care model where both clinical outcomes and cost savings determined part or all of an entity’s financial compensation. Here are a few trends in the development of smart hospitals:

1. The Rise of Healthcare Wearables

Consumers are consistently embracing solutions to keep track of essential healthcare metrics, including blood pressure, daily physical activity, calorie intake, and even sleeping patterns. The global wearable technology market is going to surpass $32.71 billion by 2027. Google venturing into the fitness space with the acquisition of Fitbit attests to the fact that healthcare data is going to dominate the future and contribute to better care delivery outcomes.

2. Focus on Preventive Health Management

According to recent reports, US healthcare spending crossed $3.65 trillion in 2018 and is expected to exceed $6 trillion by 2027. Therefore, the focus now resides on identifying high-risk individuals and develop preventive wellness programs to cut down the risk of developing chronic diseases. That’s a departure from reactive to proactive care management.

3. The Need for Precision at Point of Care

To administer high-quality care, providers require accurate and updated patient data that documents critical information, including medications, allergies, comorbidities, and more. According to a Stanford study, 7 out of 10 physicians face frustration and burnout recording and searching EHRs for patient information. Therefore, AI and robotics are only going to empower smart hospitals and eliminate these shortcomings.

4. Focus on Chronic Care Management

Given the fact that more than 133 million Americans battle with one or more chronic conditions, managing chronic conditions require adhering to a strict treatment plan even outside the provider facility. Now, digital devices are supporting chronic care management and can be implanted inside the body for 24X7 monitoring for conditions, including diabetes, high blood pressure, and cardiac ailments. Technology can help providers know if a plan of treatment is being followed or not so that they can act on time to make necessary modifications.

The Anatomy of a Smart Hospital Architecture

1. High Degree of Automation

Smart hospitals aim to cut down redundant activities and improve operational efficiency with technologies such as RFID detection and sensing. Such an arrangement is capable of creating, securing, and maintaining both patient and material records. The best example is a robot named Moxi that can address 30% of tasks that don’t require patient interaction and can be successfully programmed to perform mundane tasks like delivering lab specimens. This will free-up nurse time to invest back on patients that will improve care outcomes.

2. Laser-Sharp Focus on Patient Experiences

Smart hospitals are customizing the patient experience for different levels of patient care. Let’s understand with an example:

Before treatment: Smart devices like wearable technology can monitor real-time patient metrics such as blood pressure and pulse rate and send updates to the providers as soon as an abnormal fluctuation is detected. The data automatically gets updated to a cloud-based EHR in real-time to alert providers. Patients can schedule a quick appointment with their provider, right from their smart devices.

During treatment: After reaching the hospital, the patient can validate their identity with modern identification technology that includes device tagging, fingerprints, or facial recognition. A technology-driven interface then retrieves patient data from EHR and walks them through the next steps such as lab tests or other diagnostic procedures.

Post Treatment: The post-discharge summary along with existing patient data can be uploaded to the cloud in real-time to generate records on the current course of treatment. Meanwhile, a patient care app can perform crucial tasks for patient engagement such as sending reminders for treatment adherence, setting guidelines for post-discharge care, and more.

4. The movement to Outpatient Settings

Smart hospitals do not plan to offer services under one roof. Rather, smart hospitals deliver services at smaller interconnected entities with clearly defined responsibilities such as preventive wellness programs at clinics or homes, and minor procedures at ambulatory centers.

So, in a smart hospital model, hospitals manage only critical activities that are impossible to be managed elsewhere such as tasks requiring meticulous coordination.

The Road Ahead

Fragmented care delivery poses a challenge for providers and prevents them from achieving care objectives. A smart hospital runs on a data aggregation engine that never stops. Data lies at the core of a smart hospital ecosystem and is being transmitted continuously across systems to cut-down redundancy and improve quality outcomes at the point of care. To learn how providers can successfully make a transition to the “smart hospital” model, check out Innovaccer’s suite of solutions for providers.

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