Smart Hospital Concept: Is The Healthcare Industry Ready?

Medical Facilities Embracing AI, IoT, And Automation



Steven Lerner
10/18/2018

Hospitals as we know it might be a thing of the past. As enterprises across all industries are embarking on a digital transformation journey, medical facilities are also embracing new technological solutions. The smart hospital concept is quickly becoming a reality because it can reduce healthcare costs, reduce risks, and boost patient satisfaction.

The health care industry is already undergoing massive changes. A well-known example is with medical devices, which operate like computers and are vulnerable to security breaches. Across the industry, solutions with the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence are being used to improve existing patient care and introduce new capabilities.

The Current State Of The Smart Hospital Concept

A 2018 report by Allied Market Research found that the global smart hospital market was valued at $16.9 million in 2017, and it will grow to $58.7 million by 2025. The report attributed the increase in value to the rise of connected devices in hospitals and the advancements of medical infrastructure.

One of the best cases of the smart hospital concept becoming a reality is with the adoption of some degree of social artificial intelligence (AI). This could include a solution with machine learning capabilities, or technology that provides status reports. A great example of that would be with a nurse call system that uses AI to give nurses the current status of a patient’s vital signs. Another example of machine learning technology being used as part of a smart hospital concept is with medical billing, which generates a diagnosis code. Ultimately, the next step towards real AI is to be able to predict behavior or to have the AI mimic the behavior of humans.

Why Medical Facilities Need Accelerated Change

Although the smart hospital concept seems promising, there are also some challenges. Overall, the industry has a lack of competence in deploying IoT solutions, and limited governance standards that could diminish the market’s potential. The type of AI that is currently being used by most hospitals is still in the embassy stage, and these facilities are probably many years away from reaching a more advanced level.

“I would say overall people are thinking about using little components of it, but we're not even close to being in that mature model,” said Children's Mercy Hospital's Chief Information and Digital Officer David Chou. “So because we haven't done that, I don't see true artificial intelligence replacing humans or doing a lot of the functions for patients.”

Currently, most medical schools do not incorporate AI technology into the curriculum, and experienced medical professionals may not be prepared for an AI solution diagnosing a patient. It is imperative that medical schools teach doctors and nurses how to use AI to complement their skillset, especially as AI gains the ability to predict behavior in the future.

“We’re currently not using artificial intelligence to be able to predict behavior, and we're probably using it to give us statuses right now, said Chou. “It’s not the artificial intelligence is going to replicate or even augment physicians.”

The Future Of The Smart Hospital Concept

As AI technology becomes more predictive, the entire medical industry will probably move to a value-based care model where organizations get paid based on the value provided to patients. In other words, hospitals will get paid for keeping a person healthy, which means AI is going to be crucial to help hospitals predict when a patient is going to have a major healthcare issue. The challenge is for humans to start trusting the AI component to make clinical decisions. Chou said that in 10 years, the adoption rate for AI in the healthcare industry could potentially be around 30%.

With regards to the types of technologies permeating the smart hospital concept, most observers are speculating that robot nurses could make an impact. However, despite robot nurse adoption around the world, it is unlikely that this technology is going to be widespread across North America in the near future. One solution that the smart hospital concept could embrace now is robotic process automation (RPA), which will help as these facilities expand towards AI.

“My guidance is to not focus on the shiny object of AI now. Instead, get some of the basics down with RPA,” said Chou. “Start with those areas first before you get excited about jumping into the world of AI. We're really trying to figure out how to automate repetitive tasks. You cannot simply jump from ‘not automation’ to AI.”

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