By Adam Chapman, life sciences and healthcare expert at Honeywell Building Solutions
The term ‘smart building’ is hardly revolutionary, but connectivity enabled by the Internet of Things (IoT) is providing new opportunities for organisations to put their buildings to work and realise benefits.
Healthcare organisations have more incentive to improve the patient experience, and building environments are becoming a key way of achieving this target
Fortunately, this is more than a hypothetical technological aspiration. Real-world scenarios are already playing out across industries, highlighting how smart, connected buildings can enhance occupant experiences and increase productivity when the right building blocks are implemented.
One of the industries where this is most applicable is healthcare, partly owing to technology advancements, along with broader industry and regulatory drivers.
The shift to value-based care, where funding is linked to satisfaction and outcomes, is a significant change from the previous volume-based model. Now, healthcare organisations have more incentive to improve the patient experience, and building environments are becoming a key way of achieving this target.
Hospitals have recognised the importance of addressing aging infrastructure - an issue that’s becoming harder and harder to ignore
This shift towards value-based care means hospitals are re-examining how to optimise patient comfort, minimise wasted time, and give patients as much control as possible when it comes to their medical stay. This has paved the way for healthcare to embrace the digital revolution.
In order to make the most of this opportunity, hospitals have recognised the importance of addressing aging infrastructure - an issue that’s becoming harder and harder to ignore.
By updating old infrastructure, hospitals can tap into building and IoT connectivity for improved operations and experiences in hospitals.
Let’s look at what these different IoT components involve, and how hospitals can take advantage of all they have to offer.
Firstly, an integrated, standardised technology backbone. The complexity of hospital networks, both in terms of the number of buildings and the types of services and systems included, requires a simple, standardised technology approach.
Beginning with an integrated building management system as the backbone, a hospital can gain a detailed look into system performance to help maintain optimal environments.
The optimal system effectively uses the connectivity of today’s buildings, providing a clear solution for facility managers to turn building data into actionable insights.
For example, facility managers can layer on applications such as preventative analytics, preventing downtime and hence impact to the patient experience, or deliver energy-efficient outcomes in real time, from lowering the air conditioning in an unoccupied room, to monitoring the refrigerated temperature of oncology drugs.
What’s more, with a standardised approach in place, the system can communicate with standard protocols and integrate additional technologies, including those across multiple facilities. This means that hospitals can evolve without needing to replace their current systems, but rather make the transition over time aligned to budgets.
An additional component is a cloud-connected service to optimise maintenance and operations.
Taking advantage of IoT connectivity is only possible when a hospital is equipped to capture and analyse the sizable amount of data that today’s modern building technologies generate.
Beginning with an integrated building management system as the backbone, a hospital can gain a detailed look into system performance to help maintain optimal environments
Cloud-connected applications, including new service and maintenance efforts, enable hospitals to utilise different sensors and endpoints in a building. This can offer many benefits, for instance providing more-detailed, real-time insights into how a piece of equipment is operating. Hospitals can address issues faster, before problems manifest, thereby saving money.
Alternatively, it could involve forging a tighter bond with patients and staff so hospitals can quickly address any comfort-related requests.
The benefits are endless, but for a hospital’s service and maintenance personnel, taking this type of approach can mean spending less time manually checking building equipment, often no small task for large, complex hospitals. Instead, personnel can focus maintenance activities where they will make the most difference.
IoT connectivity means more than just connected buildings and equipment. It also means connected people. In particular, mobile applications that connect people with their surroundings are helping bring IoT concepts in hospitals to life. This provides patients with more control to improve their comfort and satisfaction by swiping on their screen.
One way in which these applications can be used is using building connectivity to provide clearer, customised directions for navigating through a complex facility such as a hospital.
Navigating around a hospital has long been a source of angst among patients and their loved ones, and an obstacle to patient satisfaction.
These types of applications can help patients, visitors, even clinicians easily make their way around a hospital on their mobile phone saving everyone time in the process.
Mobile applications can also empower patients and visitors to take control of their surroundings. This could mean a patient’s TV and room temperature, or food selection and window blinds, ultimately bringing the comforts of home to the hospital stay.
Additionally, turning to IoT can help boost staff productivity.
As hospitals continue to get smarter and more connected, they will continue to use more data and insights that influence daily operations and improve patient experiences, thereby demonstrating the power of IoT
Nurses spend an excessive amount of time looking for assets critical to performing their jobs, such as IV poles or thermometers, and tracking applications can help speed up the process, all while optimising hospital workflows and improving productivity along the way.
Real-time asset tracking applications can also track where people are for maximum staff efficiency, track the interaction between patients, staff and assets to reduce hospital acquired infections.
Healthcare is similar to other industries in that the end users served, whether it is a patient, a retail shopper or an airport traveller, have ever-shifting expectations for experiences within a building, shaped largely by the increased connectivity around us.
As hospitals continue to get smarter and more connected, they will continue to use more data and insights that influence daily operations and improve patient experiences, thereby demonstrating the power of IoT.