Unlocking the benefits of technology-enabled care

Technological advancements are affecting every part of modern lives, with health and social care institutions no exception to these changing times. And with digital transformation presenting us with the opportunity to improve standards of healthcare worldwide, it is becoming ever clearer that the way in which healthcare institutions are built can also assist in enabling the early adoption of technology-enabled care.

Across the globe, from Chase Farm Hospital in the UK to Henan Children’s Hospital in China, healthcare organisations are at different stages of harnessing these new digital technologies - from the use of big data and robots that improve resource and provision of care, to the implementation of artificial intelligence to assist in disease diagnosis, medication dosing, monitoring and facilities optimisation.

And while these measures have the potential to maximise staff efficiency, offer better care to patients and overall enhance the art of the possible, if poorly implemented they can drain resources and even risk being dead on arrival.

How can health and social care institutions best implement digital technologies into their services, and what are the benefits of thinking digitally during the construction of facilities?

Flexible data policies for complex estates

Having recognised the potential of digital technologies to drive improvements and efficiencies across healthcare services, governments and care providers must now work together to create efficient systems that put the patient and service user front and centre, allowing them to retain and control their personal data.

For such policies to be successful, patient and client data needs to be seamlessly integrated across healthcare organisations. This requires careful sharing of data, given with consent from different parts of your business and supply chains. Alongside patient data, success also rests on a strong handle of wider information across the healthcare estate, ranging from cataloguing key facilities and locations to ensuring you understand how your staff function day-to-day.

This can be an incredibly complex task. Making sure that this wide range of data is understandable and effective in delivering digital solutions takes a lot of careful management.

Stakeholder management is an essential part to getting this process right.  Your staff, patients, clients and partners need to be regularly engaged to ensure that your datasets are reliable and the benefits of technology-enabled care are well understood.

If successful you can deploy your digital solutions with much greater confidence, insulating your services against future redundancy.

Get it right from the build

However, future proofing your digital solutions not only means considering your patients and clients, but also how your hospitals, health centres and care facilities are designed, constructed and managed long-term. This is where built environment expertise can be crucial, implementing the latest technology at the earliest stages of development.

It is essential to have robust designs and procurement methods to avoid the risk that your digital strategy becomes outdated before being put into action. This is particularly important for large, complex hospitals, where it can take anywhere from five to fifteen years to progress from finalising designs to actual operation. Even something as simple as accidentally creating WiFi ‘deadzones’ in certain locations can hamper some digital services before they even begin.

That’s why the impact of Building Information Modelling (BIM) – in the design, running, management and maintenance of the building and estate – cannot be underestimated. The adoption and roll-out of innovative methods such as Modular Construction and Design for Manufacture and Assembly (DfMA) are vital too, providing an opportunity to create repeatable facilities through standardisation of components and layouts – which also makes it easier for staff to work in, particularly for new and temporary staff – as well as adding benefits like minimising operational and embodied carbon.

It’s clear that technology-enabled care and services offer a wealth of benefits, ranging from improving the access and quality of care provided to patients and clients to driving efficiencies in construction and operation. However, this can only be effective when organisations have the right measures in place to enable safe and secure sharing of data to avoid falling foul of the complexities across modern healthcare estates. Achieving this can drive healthcare ambitions to make the hospital of the future a reality.