The rise of the ‘smart hospital’
In what has been described as the fourth industrial revolution, the continuing rise of digital healthcare is reshaping the healthcare industry, making the idea of a ‘smart hospital’ a reality across Europe by 2020, say researchers.
Rising amounts of available data, cloud computing services, and machine learning are creating artificial intelligence-based solutions to provide expert insight and analysis on a wide scale – and at a relatively low cost. At the same time, connected medical devices are transforming the way the healthcare industry works. Factors such as these are combining to create a situation where the smart hospital market could exceed US$ 63bn (€53.8bn) by 2024, at a CAGR of 23.5% in the same time period.
“A ‘smart hospital’ relies on optimised and automated processes, built on an ICT environment of interconnected assets - the Internet of Things (IoT) - aimed at improving existing patient care procedures and introducing new capabilities,” says Karen Taylor, Director at the UK Centre for Health Solutions, in a recent article. “It relies on the big data revolution – the ‘fourth industrial revolution’ – which combines connected devices with cloud computing, big data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) – to ensure that the critical infrastructure is ‘smart’.”
If healthcare is to remain affordable and widely available for future generations, a rethink of how it’s provided and managed is critical, she says. “Providers need to work in collaboration with health system partners to apply the technology that can help achieve the necessary changes. Embracing digital technology and big data (including genomics) will help deliver not only improved patient outcomes but also lower healthcare costs, while delivering personalised care to patients.
“An example of how machine learning and information technology is changing healthcare is radiology, where experts believe as much as 80% of activity could be replaced by machine algorithms,” she says.
Innovations that will drive the smart hospital of the future, says Taylor, include blockchain, which she says increases transparency not only between patient and doctor, but between different healthcare providers; bio-telemetry, which collects meaningful data and analytics through sensors to monitor variability in heart rate and other vital signs throughout the day, reducing the need for hospital appointments - and drug development and precision medicine based on genomics and Big Data. Taylor also feels that virtual rehabilitation in orthopaedics has a significant role to play.
Research analysts Frost & Sullivan predict that by 2025, 10% of hospitals globally will become or will be at various stages of implementing smart hospital initiatives.