August 17, 2021
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The Future of Smart Buildings in Healthcare
From the Tricorder device in Star Trek to the remote surgeries seen in Prometheus and The Fifth Element, science fiction has long predicted innovations in healthcare—including the rise of big data, the Internet of Things, and handheld apps. It’s safe to say that the “futuristic” technologies foretold by popular culture are now upon us.
While the rise of IoT has meant considerable advances in telemedicine and disease management, it is also beginning to revolutionize medical facilities. Given the enormous efficiencies and improvements healthcare organizations stand to gain by investing in smart building technologies, we’ve made our own predictions about which cutting-edge innovations will soon become commonplace.
What makes smart buildings so valuable for healthcare?
Today’s healthcare facility managers are challenged with improving patient and staff experiences in a highly competitive landscape. It’s a tall order, given their other directives: mitigating costs and minimizing risk amid ever-tightening healthcare margins.
By collecting and delivering valuable facility data that can be leveraged for any number of improvements, smart buildings are an investment that allows medical facilities to rise to the challenges of today and tomorrow.
Prediction #1: Real-time locating systems improve security and asset management.
Security and safety are significant challenges for today’s hospitals. Given the troubling upward trends in violence and trespassing, 61% of hospitals said they planned to increase their security budgets in a 2018 survey.
Asset management is another pain point. According to a Nursing Times survey, one-third of nurses said they spent at least one hour per shift searching for equipment—the equivalent of 40 hours per month. That lost time can hurt the patient experience and cause hospitals to invest in renting and replacing lost assets needlessly.
Real-time locating systems (RTLS) can help medical facilities rise to both of these challenges by allowing staff to pinpoint the exact location of anything with a tag, whether it’s a hospital visitor, patient, or pricey piece of equipment.
Prediction #2: ‘Connected ERs’ reduce wait times and improve patient experiences
Wait times play a major role in patient satisfaction; a 2018 Vitals study showed a strong correlation between how long patients waited to be seen and the star rating a hospital received online. Furthermore, up to 30% said long wait times caused them to leave a medical office before being seen. One in five said they would even consider changing providers if wait times weren’t satisfactory!
While some wait times are unavoidable, smart IoT applications can help hospitals optimize resources and patient flow. By assigning each patient an RTLS-enabled wristband to track their journeys from front desk to final release, hospitals can collect a goldmine of valuable data and identify improvement opportunities. IoT systems can also provide visibility into wait times and trends that help healthcare facilities continuously optimize operations.
Prediction #3: IoT automates compliance and enables proactive maintenance.
Regulatory compliance is an expensive obligation for the healthcare industry, costing hospitals about $39 billion each year, collectively. Healthcare systems also expend a tremendous number of resources to ensure requirements are met, often at the expense of patient-care responsibilities.
Innovative building technology can make some aspects of compliance automatic. Environmental monitoring and hand hygiene compliance, for example, are both tasks that can be managed by smart systems that transmit and document data collected by IoT sensors. These same systems can also be programmed to send alerts when things need attention, enabling a more proactive approach to building and equipment maintenance.
Prediction #4: The ‘API Revolution” opens doors to future innovations.
With the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing telemedicine boom, the healthcare industry realized a need for industry-standard APIs to facilitate better data interconnectivity, systems integration, and scalability. With APIs providing a foundation for secure data sharing, developers can rapidly develop any number of problem-solving solutions for healthcare facilities.