By 2020 the Smart Hospital will be a reality

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Karen Taylor

Jun 13, 2017 - reading time 5 mins

Karen Taylor

Research Director, Centre for Health Solutions 


Karen is the Research Director of the Centre for Health Solutions. She supports the Healthcare and Life Sciences practice by driving independent and objective business research and analysis into key industry challenges and associated solutions; generating evidence-based insights and points of view on issues from pharmaceuticals and technology innovation to healthcare management and reform. Karen also produces a weekly blog on topical issues facing the healthcare and life science industries.

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The last few years has seen an exponential increase in the capacity and capability of new health technologies heralding the prospect of a very different model of healthcare.

Female doctor using digital tablet in hospital

This next technological revolution – the technology redefining the healthcare industry of the future – is combining vast amounts of available data, cloud computing services, and machine learning is creating artificial intelligence (AI)-based solutions to provide expert insight and analysis on a mass scale, at a relatively low cost.


Connected medical devices are already transforming the way the healthcare industry works. By 2020 the widespread adoption of technology-enabled care will ensure that the concept of the “Smart Hospital” becomes a reality.

The ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ – big data

A ‘Smart Hospital’ relies on optimized 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. 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’. [1]


The IoT is a reality, creating vast amounts of data, faster and more detailed than ever before (the world’s data volume is expected to grow by 40 percent a year, and 50 times by 2020). [2] Meanwhile healthcare costs are spiraling out of control with global health spend projected to rise by 4.2 percent per year from $7.1 trillion in 2015 to $8.7 trillion by 2020; something that is becoming increasingly unsustainable for most countries. [3] If healthcare is to remain affordable and widely available for future generations, a rethink of how it’s provided and managed is crucial.


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 personalized care to patients. An example of how machine learning and information technology is changing healthcare is radiology, where experts believe as much as 80 percent of activity could be replaced by machine algorithms. Other leading areas include oncology and dermatology. Information technology can and will change almost everything we know and believe about healthcare.

4 innovations that will drive the Hospital of the Future

Blockchain technology – is a shared, immutable record of peer-to-peer transactions built from linked transaction blocks and stored in a digital ledger. This allows each separate patient data source to be a ‘block’ part of a complete, unalterable patient data profile which can then be shared securely with healthcare providers or research organizations. Blockchain can help organizations bridge traditional data silos, dramatically increase IT and organizational efficiencies, keep business and medical data secure, and streamline patients’ access to medical data. It has the potential to help overcome the limitations of large-scale sharing of health data currently holding back innovation; namely data security and patient privacy concerns during the data exchange process. Blockchain increases transparency not only between patient and doctor, but between different healthcare providers. [4]


Bio-telemetry – collects meaningful data and analytics through sensors to monitor variability in heart rate and other vital signs throughout the day. Wearable technology, including smartwatches, eyeglass displays, and electroluminescent clothing, are among the many devices under development or already in the marketplace. These offer individuals an insight into their own physiology and behavior, helping them improve their health and wellbeing. It can be used to: monitor patients in their own homes and provide objective insights into what’s happening between hospital or clinic visits; help clinicians determine how patients are responding to treatment or medication and how their recovery is progressing. It can also reduce the need for hospital appointments. [5]


Drug development and precision medicine based on genomics and big data – since the launch of the Human Genome Project, more than 1,800 disease genes have been discovered, and over 2,000 genetic tests for human conditions developed. [6] Genomics is a major part of digital health, not a side note. Computers and robotics are necessary to, among other things, scale genomic sequencing and enable gene editing. This development has benefitted oncology most, and on a much smaller scale, non-oncology indications have explored targeted approaches, primarily split between therapeutic areas of the central nervous system, infectious disease and the autoimmune disease, cystic fibrosis.

Virtual rehabilitation in orthopedics – physical therapy is a big part of orthopedic care. As the era of value-based care and bundled payments takes hold, there will be an expansion in availability of new sensor devices connected to a mobile app that can guide patients through their daily exercise routine following orthopedic surgery; recording range-of-motion, which is key to better clinical outcomes. The data is also shared in real time so clinicians can tweak exercise protocols, and a virtual avatar can guide patients through exercises. The system can also collect patient-reported outcomes to support reimbursement for orthopedic procedures such as joint replacements. [7]


The above is not simply about what the technology and tools can do, but what healthcare practitioners no longer have to do. By freeing up clinicians’ time, they can focus more on delivering the face-to-face care and, with the help of technology, maximize levels of performance and health outcomes. The greatest potential comes from partnering human intelligence with probability tools and analytics to help improve the precision around diagnoses and treatment options and embedding quantitative data at the point of care.









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