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Digital Healthcare and the Evolution of Smart Hospitals

Written by Prahlad Koti, Senior Partner, Netcompany

Healthcare technology innovation is rightly seen as the answer to many of the challenges facing global health systems. The role of digital technology in realising the dream of accessible, affordable, and sustainable care has grown across the entire range of health economies in not only serving current needs, but in building the basis for the healthcare of the future: personalised, digital by default and truly patient-centric.

The UK Government’s ongoing investment in growing capabilities in areas such as AI and more broadly around data-driven healthcare, has further fuelled the creation of cutting edge, evidence-based solutions. Solutions which have the key to unlock global challenges, effectively.

 Why digitalisation is a key enabler

The demand for healthcare services is also growing more generally and patients have ever-increasing expectations about the safety and quality of NHS services. In addition, regulations are becoming more complex and hospital managers must adhere to stricter regulatory governance. NHS and private hospitals must excel in providing healthcare service and digitalisation is key to enabling this. The concept revolutionises hospitals on a human, financial and operational level leading to the evolution of smart hospitals.

Smart hospitals are holistic, interdisciplinary innovators. Although smart hospitals require advanced IT technologies, becoming a smart hospital is not merely an IT project. Rather, it is a deeply embedded, system-wide process that requires the participation of all staff, including physicians, nurses, and management.

The benefits are enormous – smart hospitals offer lower infection risks and enhanced security, while at the same time improving patient satisfaction and optimising staff and energy efficiency. Smart infrastructure can help hospitals master digital transformation by collecting, analysing, and making good use of patient data.

According to McKinsey, countries implementing digital technologies in healthcare delivery could help realise cost savings of more than ten percent of overall annual national healthcare expenditures. As a result, investors have recognised the opportunity and US based digital health startups brought in almost $30 billion in 2021, almost doubling the total investment the year prior The shifting digital health investment landscape in 2022  Moreover, StartUp Health reported that health innovation funding reached $44 billion globally in 2021, a 20-fold increase on a decade ago.

The benefits of digital health

Aside from the cost savings outlined above, digital health means collecting and analysing data to predict disease and intervene quicker. It means physicians can have access to patient notes when they need them to make better decisions. It means patients can be seen by medical professionals without travelling long distances. It means citizens can educate themselves on their health and wellness. It also means patients can use machines to do basic tasks and free up skilled staff to do more caring.  Put simply, the healthcare system can do far more with less.

In 2021, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) announced a draft strategy titled Data Saves Lives: Reshaping health and social care with data. One key aspect of this strategy is the development of smart hospitals, which will use digital interoperability to redesign traditional hospital processes, systems, and infrastructures. At a time when the NHS is trying to recover from a treatment backlog created by the Covid-19 pandemic, these smart systems can significantly improve capacity issues and reduce staff burnout by creating intelligently optimised patient healthcare journeys.

One of the critical aspects of smart hospitals is the opportunity to bring data together from across the country, to be gathered and shared in one central hub. Developing a single interoperability platform that connects all the systems within a hospital can transform the way they are managed – from handling medicines to admitting patients – making day-to-day processes smoother and more efficient for both patients and healthcare professionals. Outside hospital walls, these platforms can also improve the lives of patients with long term conditions by easily integrating at-home wearables and other devices with hospital systems for seamless remote monitoring.

 Smart integration

Ensuring that different health tech systems can communicate with each other is vital. By creating systems that can share the huge quantities of data that is available between departments, deeper insights can be discovered and more importantly, patient healthcare outcomes can be improved. Unless these systems are integrated, hospitals end up with just more siloed pools of separate data and more disjointed services within organisations, an issue that has plagued NHS health tech from previous generations.  Likewise accessing and integrating with legacy systems to extract all-important data is also critical.

 A patient-centric approach to healthcare services

Since its inception, Netcompany has focussed on healthcare for its evident criticality to society.  In fact, since 2015 Netcompany has been responsible for development and maintenance of the e-health portal Sundhed.dk, which is the official portal for public Danish healthcare services. The portal enables citizens and healthcare professionals to find information and communicate with one another, facilitating a more patient-centric approach to the Danish healthcare services. It provides one-stop information access for professionals and citizens on a wide range of social healthcare services and gives seamless access to and sharing of personal health data. Additionally, Netcompany has been a the forefront of developing Covid solutions such as the Covid pass for UK, Scotland, Denmark and Norway

The UK Government has committed to build 48 new hospitals by 2030. This new hospital programme will have transformational effects on the fundamentals of health and social care infrastructure, and also give staff and patients access to exciting new technology that will benefit them on a day-to-day basis. Now is the time to strive for the art of the possible and drive transformation with the new advancements in healthcare technology and the evolution of smart hospitals.