Smart Hospital: Digitally Connected Healthcare
Every year, new technologies hit the market. They expand, update, and connect hospitals and healthcare facilities. But advancing digitization not only accelerates the speed of improvements, it also uncovers problem areas that must still be fixed.
Yet it is these types of problems that also reveal new solutions that can fast-track the digitization of hospitals in the future. Many organizations and projects are underway in efforts to increase interconnectedness and support healthcare processes. Their objective always centers on the patient experience. The new technologies predominantly seek to improve and expand treatment options and to ease the burden of healthcare employees. Digitization just for the sake of new possibilities would ultimately not achieve sustained improvement.
That's why the E-Health Law (Statute for Secure Digital Communication and Applications in the Health Sector) was enacted to support these efforts. The law plans to support the “Electronic Health Card” (eGK) and connect healthcare systems across the different sectors by establishing a telematics infrastructure. This interconnectedness makes collaboration easier and improves the quality of patient care.
Systems and software of smart hospitals
Several useful systems facilitate the implementation of a smart hospital concept and create new possibilities in clinical practice. This includes a cross-sector communication platform, a robotics center, a 3D printing facility or a data validation center. App store availability to optimize patient care and follow-up care in all medical areas would be another aspect to advance connectivity and digitization. Many hospitals already feature some of these technologies.
Besides artificial intelligence applications, they also increasingly implement blockchain technologies and robotics. This changes and optimizes both tasks and processing. These processes generate large amounts of information and data that must be accurately recorded, consolidated, and processed. Given the right infrastructure, this is an interface that makes digital age networking of the sectors possible. It is an area where the electronic health record comes into play.
Collaboration between hospitals
Professor Jochen Alfred Werner, CEO at University Hospital of Essen says, “The smart hospital is the control platform as well as the networked, open-information backbone of the healthcare system.” If the concept is implemented correctly, it brings about a change in how data, technology, patients, and employees are managed. The goal of comprehensive care also changes the approach to interoperability. It is no longer enough for a hospital to be internally connected. It must also be able to network with external resources. However, there are still some problems in this area. Apart from the legal criteria for networked medical devices, which must meet multiple safety and quality requirements, devices on the European market are also required to have a CE mark. The CE marking attests that the product complies with the relevant legal European product requirements as outlined in EU regulation 765/2008 and the primary objective of the Commission to bring product harmonization legislation. Often there are network connectivity challenges since hospitals typically use medical devices made by different manufacturers, who use different communication protocols and data formats. That is why there is a need for a single unified standards-based device interface to ensure clinical network integration and to avoid so-called isolated solutions. Even turnkey solutions, such as a fully integrated operating room provided by a single manufacturer are not an efficient alternative to this effect since it still doesn’t make networking with external resources possible or requires complicated workarounds.
The future of smart hospitals and healthcare will therefore emphasize connected structures that support further interoperability and promote outpatient care. Telemedicine is an umbrella term that encompasses new technologies such as wearables or information platforms. The capabilities of wearables facilitate the cross-sector network connectivity of medical facilities, medical practitioners, and patients. This improves the patient experience by boosting patient comfort and helps healthcare professionals to work faster and more efficiently.