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Building Smart Hospitals

Updated: Jul 19, 2022

Smart homes have been around since the middle of the last century. Imagined by authors and artists, creative architects and engineers made them a reality by building automation and data sharing into the walls of the house. The technology was possible, but there were very few smart homes actually built.

Today most homes have some level of smart operation. Doorbell cameras, automated lights and appliances, remotes that can see the status and control multiple devices are common. There are two key technical changes have led to the preponderance of smart homes today. One is the advances in wireless transmission that eliminated the need for hardware infrastructure. The second is that devices themselves got smart and interoperable.

Wireless communication of data is now more prevalent in hospitals. The regulatory and security challenges have been met with primarily software solutions. However, the second technology evolution has been slower in hospitals. To a large extent bedside medical devices used in hospitals do not seamlessly communicate to hospitals data systems.

To date the options for most hospitals to connect medical devices have been primarily infrastructure solutions such as middleware systems or ports on monitor systems. All of the smarts, the drivers, translators and data transmission reside in the network.

In contrast in the consumer world the communication responsibility is more dispersed. A very small amount of infrastructure is installed, and devices have their own internal connectivity capabilities. So for example, Google home is a small centralized infrastructure. Devices that attach to Google home must have communication smarts built in.

Hospital IT departments are increasingly calling for medical devices to offer interoperability, and demonstrate that their devices can connect to the patient medical record and other applications. Some medical device companies have responded with software gateway solutions that collect data from multiple devices and deliver it to the hospital data stream. Some medical device companies have added code to their devices to enable the device to speak directly to hospital data systems. Others are still not connecting.

Building smart devices, enabling per device connectivity, is likely an important component in getting to seamless connectivity. Having connected devices in the hospital reduces the workload of transcribing data, and improves the accuracy and timeliness of data. This results in better patient care and happier nurses and hospital staff. Build smart medical devices moves us one step closer to bringing plug and play connectivity to the hospital ward.

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