Hospitals worldwide are struggling to meet the demands for quality patient care and operational efficiencies. Designing and implementing an “intelligent technology infrastructure” to help meet those needs falls to healthcare engineers and technicians, and their professional teams. An understanding of best practices for migrating to an improved infrastructure can guide them in this complex but beneficial undertaking.
What is an intelligent technology infrastructure?
Based on information communication technology, as well as wireless and mobile communication protocols, an intelligent technology infrastructure builds efficiency across an organisation. Acting as the central nervous system of a hospital, the infrastructure integrates and enables communication between disparate systems, such as power, HVAC, lighting, security, and IT. When a hospital’s systems can “talk” to each other, the infrastructure as a whole is stronger and makes effective use of all resources.
Designing an intelligent infrastructure
An intelligent hospital infrastructure facilitates applications that improve staff efficiency and the patient experience. It should maximise system uptime, resilience, and intelligence distribution while improving energy efficiency, patient and staff safety, and patient comfort. Resulting benefits include safeguarding data, ensuring flexible network and wireless communications, maintaining reliability, and accommodating expansion.
Step 1: Identify functional requirements
- When designing an intelligent technology infrastructure, engineers need to gather the functional, logical, and maintenance requirements. Network safety, availability, building layouts, and cabling determine the logical and functional requirements. The functional requirements are the most important because the network must meet the needs of the end users (patients and staff) and fit the technical systems and applications they support.
Factors that influence overall design efficiency include:
- Departmental adjacencies
- Windows versus no windows
- Acoustic design
- Infection control
- Medical engineering
- Single versus double rooms
- Unified services
- Floor and wall surfaces
- Electrical power infrastructure
- Safety and security
- Graphic 1: Hospital intelligent infrastructure functional design
Step 2: Map out a logical design
The logical design derives its requirements from the functional requirements, and covers protocols, topology, and network safety. Although the physical design is the last step of the design process, the physical realities must be taken into account in the logical design.
Graphic 2: Simplified logical network design
For a technology redesign in existing hospitals, engineers rely on proven processes to determine the type and degree of inefficiencies and waste. Areas to examine include:
- Defects: drug prescription errors and incomplete surgical equipment
- Overproduction: inappropriate scheduling
- Transportation: distance between related departments
- Motion: poor ergonomics
- Inventory: excess stores that expire
- Waiting: by patients or staff
- Over processing: duplication of effort across different departments
- Staff potential: underuse of staff skills
Step 3: Maintain an efficient network
Often hampered by a heavy backlog, many healthcare providers find it challenging to achieve satisfactory maintenance levels. This deficiency can affect health services that rely on a technology application to function without fail. An intelligent technology infrastructure can provide a different approach to improving maintenance standards.
Some technology infrastructures enable smarter, more predictive maintenance plans. For example, condition-based monitoring uses advanced software and data within hospital equipment to prioritise scheduled maintenance on equipment that needs it – and reduce planned maintenance on equipment that doesn’t. Technicians can draw upon that same data for predictive maintenance, using software analysis to predict faults or failure conditions in advance, allowing them to take corrective action before an issue arises.
Step 4: Enlist the right experts
People and skills are a key critical success factor if organizations intend to fulfil their hospital’s intelligent technology infrastructure migration goals. Operations staff should consider the following:
• Identify a trusted technology partner and advisor with deployment expertise
• Work with your technology partner to assess existing processes for potential waste reduction and efficiency opportunities
• Select qualified contractors for best-value proposals
Implementing an intelligent technology infrastructure offers significant benefits and is highly scalable, ranging from a single improvement in a single department of an existing hospital to a complete integrated technology infrastructure in a new hospital – and pays off by improving patient care, sustainability and financial health.