The benefits of smart rooms in hospitals
Author: Megan Williams
Smart hospital rooms provide an opportunity for the healthcare industry to leave the stereotypical images of patient rooms—smudged whiteboards, old televisions and bad food—in the past where they belong. Instead, by using the latest technology, smart rooms in hospitals can enhance the patient experience, improve clinical workflows and ultimately, foster more efficient operations and subsequently, patient outcomes.
What is a smart hospital room?
Smart rooms in hospitals connect technology, data and devices to provide an integrated and streamlined experience for patients in the room where they are staying. They are part of the broader smart hospital concept, connected signage, wayfinding and advanced IoT applications like untethered wearables.
What are use cases for smart room technology in hospitals?
There are multiple ways smart room technology can be used by hospitals. Examples include:
- Secure digital whiteboards that integrate with EHR and PACs systems to deliver patient-specific care and treatment plans.
- Infotainment systems that support everything from in-room telehealth to movie and meal ordering to patient education to postoperative discharge planning.
- Healthcare wearables and other Internet of Things (IoT) devices that allow for near real-time remote patient monitoring.
- Video conferencing and telehealth tools to facilitate specialist consultations and inclusion of remote family and caregivers for physician rounding, treatment discussions, and discharge planning. Tablets to share results, such as scans, help with patient education and allow patients to make requests without needing to call a nurse
- AI-enabled, in-room voice technology that can power hands-free interaction with key systems by clinical staff and enable patient control over smart room functions, such as temperature, ambient lighting, noise, and communication with on-floor personnel.
What are the benefits of smart rooms in hospitals?
Smart hospital rooms offer the potential to improve the patient experience while reducing the workload of healthcare staff. One of the main rationales for using smart room technology is to transform the hospital experience so people are treated as engaged guests instead of passive patients. There is growing evidence that increased patient engagement can lead to better patient outcomes.
Smart patient rooms allow hospitals to leverage many more of the benefits of telehealth and remote patient monitoring. Wearables and other devices can provide near real-time insights into a patient's health status, allowing for problems to be identified earlier and medical intervention to be undertaken as soon as possible. Specialists can be consulted without ever needing to enter the patient's room, or even be in the same location, and immunocompromised patients or those in medical isolation can be safely cared for by staff and consultants via virtual means. Smart technology can also reduce language barriers in healthcare by offering translation services and multilingual user interfaces.
Efficiently sharing accurate information
A smart hospital room can facilitate the sharing of accurate, up-to-date information from a variety of sources including electronic health records and staff scheduling software. This allows staff to better understand a patient's situation at a glance, reducing the likelihood of errors. With relevant information displayed on screens, healthcare staff can also operate more efficiently as they do not need to spend time trying to understand notes written on whiteboards or log into various computer systems.
Connected technology can also help with patient education by providing opportunities to visually display staff names, medical information and treatment plans to patients and their families. Updates on health status and procedures can clarify where a patient is on their care journey. At the same time, patients and families can use video conferencing tools to join support groups and similar services.
A more autonomous, personalized experience
Smart rooms can allow patients greater control over their stay in the hospital. They can adjust lighting and temperature settings to suit them, use tablets to order food and even select entertainment and gaming options to help them rest and relax. Many of these nonmedical functions currently require hospital staff intervention. Whether using Alexa or tablets, the more patients are involved in these tasks, the more it frees up staff to focus on more care-related activities.
What type of connectivity is required for smart hospital rooms?
Smart room technology in hospitals requires fast, reliable connectivity to ensure the effective interoperability of various devices and systems. Bandwidth and capacity will also present challenges given the large traffic volumes of multiple smart patient rooms in the same hospital. Improved communication technology has enhanced the capacity for smart hospital rooms to manage higher data processing and transmission speeds to power improved outcomes and facilitate advanced services that rely on data quality, accuracy and speed.
According to HIMSS research, "most care is being delivered by apps running on Wi-Fi," which was ranked as the most critical form of communication in providing patient care according to 85% of respondents to a survey of industry leaders by HIMSS.1 However, these same survey respondents had more concerns about Wi-Fi in relation to security, latency and bandwidth compared to alternative options.2
Private 5G networks provide a compelling alternative for hospitals, and the same survey found 40% of respondents already view it as being critical.3 5G can provide ultra-fast speed allowing for high-definition video chat with near-zero lag. 5G also has the ability to support from 10 to 100 times more connected devices than alternatives, meaning healthcare organizations don't have to worry about the capacity constraints of multiple smart rooms in hospitals operating at once.