The future of healthcare is closer than we might think, thanks to the development of digital hospitals, where technology has become a major player.
To understand this change in mentality and methodology, we can name two of the main factors responsible for driving the technological transformation of the health sector.
First, we are facing a complex demographic scenario. On the one hand, the world’s population continues to grow. It is expected to reach 9,700 million inhabitants by 2050. On the other hand, people live longer now due to improved health conditions. In 2030, the percentage of people over 60 will increase by 34%.
The COVID-19 crisis is the second factor driving the digitalization of hospitals. The list of lessons learned made it clear that a lack of hospital resources can have very negative consequences.
In the current demographic scenario and to prepare for a possible pandemic in the future, one of the main health priorities involves guaranteeing that the necessary services are available to prevent the healthcare system from collapsing. This can be achieved by increasing or optimizing the available resources. Moreover, digitalization is required to make this second option feasible.
Technology has always been a key element in the hospital system. However, the healthcare sector is now seeking a more profound digital transformation, which focuses on reducing errors, increasing the quality of the patient experience and care, optimizing management staff and operations and improving the internal and external communications.
A digital experience for patients
Digital hospitals seek to completely transform patient experience throughout the process. By using technology, patients can receive all kinds of information in real-time and participate actively before, during and after their visit.
To improve patient experience, we must first start personalizing how patients are treated and the associated services. It is essential to prevent bad practices and put the patient in the center to achieve this.
The following 5 factors must be taken into account to create a telemedicine system in which the patient perceives the improvement in efficiency:
- Human perspective: patients are human beings and should be treated as such at all times, showing the highest possible degree of empathy to understand their needs.
- Strengthening personal relationships: when a patient is in trouble or discomfort, they need to feel heard and cared for at all times. This is why communication is essential.
- Combining artificial and emotional intelligence: the introduction of artificial intelligence machines is a breakthrough for telemedicine but it is important not to create a system that is not personal enough and in which the patient feels that he/she is talking to a machine.
- Choosing the most suitable metrics: digital healthcare requires ePROMs to be used whenever possible, with the aim of recording the patient’s activity and sharing it with the team of healthcare professionals, so they can understand the changes in habits or health caused by hospital stays.
- Patient-centric system: the strategy must focus on the patient as the center of everything we do if the aim is to improve patient experience.
In particular, the improvement of patient experience is driven by artificial intelligence, both during the patient’s stay in the hospital and when managing the patient’s admission, discharge, and other processes.
Artificial and digital intelligence in hospitals
For years, we have been used to immediacy. If you want to know about something, you simply look for the information, at any time and anywhere. This immediacy is what patients seek when they go to the doctor and this is what artificial intelligence offers.
Equipping hospital rooms with virtual assistants that use AI and which can answer patients’ questions can substantially change patient experience.
These assistants could answer any questions regarding diagnoses, medication schedules, test results, appointment times, and even be used as a data warehouse for each patient’s clinical history.
Artificial intelligence can also be the solution to simplify the admission and discharge processes. These processes often cause patient dissatisfaction due to waiting times and the large number of forms that patients are asked to complete.
The goal is to make the patient admission process a pleasant one by registering patients on the cloud, which can be easily accessed by patients after admission, and in which the patient will receive all kinds of instructions through a device. The device’s AI will allow the patient to select the room, manage the medication schedules, select different diagnosis options and perform other tasks.
Hospital 4.0 and smart hospitals
Industry 4.0 has brought digital transformation to all sectors, including the healthcare industry.
This digital transformation process has led to an increase in smart infrastructures, with the incorporation of new technologies, such as artificial intelligence, virtual reality, Big Data or the Internet of Things (IoT).
Smart hospitals are not only aimed at incorporating technology in hospital environments but of making sure that all stakeholders enjoy the benefits of this.
We can make a list with the 10 key points that will be used to build the hospital of the future:
- The hospital of the future will turn traditional institutions into a technological platform that can roll out its healthcare services across different geographical areas.
- The hospital of the future will no longer be organized with hierarchies and will be organized according to processes. Therefore, each healthcare area shall encompass the clinical services and professionals.
- Technology will be highly present and will be key to reducing the length of hospital stays and avoiding unnecessary admissions.
- The hospital of the future will monitor and provide constant care to patients with chronic conditions.
- The focus will shift to the patient, who will play an active role in decision-making and become part of the team of health professionals.
- The hospital will be organized in such a way that it is no longer focused on services, with a shift in the focus to specific healthcare areas, such as the heart, brain, cancer, etc.
- The new digital hospital will also be decisive for the restructuring of services and will allow greater use of telemedicine, offering healthcare services in clinics and homes.
- This transformation process will also affect hospital managers, since a greater degree of transparency will be required from them and they will be asked to publish the results achieved with these resources.
- Hospitals tend to offer a greater variety of services to effectively meet the needs of the population, and thus offer a higher service quality.
- In hospitals in which monitoring chronic patients is one of the priorities, internal medicine will be key in future models.
COVID-19 and digitalizing the hospital of the future
The COVID-19 crisis has changed the world. Faced with a global pandemic, where millions of lives have been impacted in one way or another, the response of hospitals is crucial.
This health crisis has been the trigger for ensuring that digitalization reaches the healthcare system more quickly. In China, robots are already being used to improve the patient experience and how they are cared for.
We don’t need to go to Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, to see how technology is taking over hospitals. Many hospitals and primary healthcare centers across the world already have temperature measuring robots connected to 5G.
Other simpler robots are also being used, which are used to measure the heart rate or oxygen level through accessories, such as smart bracelets worn by patients and which are active 24 hours a day.
Another virtual reality application is related to the use of disinfectant robots in hospitals, which use ultraviolet light to kill harmful bacteria and microorganisms.
Virtual reality has also been essential to liven up the stay of children at hospitals, thanks to the entertainment robots that sometimes dance in a fun way or carry a built-in tablet, allowing children to play different games.
Moreover, the Internet of Things has been a key element to reduce the levels of stress of patients at the hospital and offers them greater peace of mind during their stay.
Such an improvement in mental health is related to the installation of entertainment systems using IoT in rooms. These devices allow the patient to be in contact with their families and not feel so alone during admission.
In the case of patients with reduced mobility, their stress levels can be reduced by using terminals controlled by voice systems, which give the patient greater autonomy and reduce their dependency, something that improves their experience while at the hospital exponentially.