By Joe Fernandes, founder and CEO, BuzzStreets
Technology is fundamentally changing the way our hospitals operate from the machinery found within them to the way we move around them, and how we treat and care for patients.
Patient well-being is influenced not only by the quality of service, but also by the design of the medical institution. Modern hospitals are being built based on the idea of creating the most comfortable conditions for staying in them. Experts consider everything—the colour of walls, the views from windows, the convenient IT-navigation around and inside the hospital complex—so that patients lose the feeling of being in “disease territory” and the NHS has embraced technology like never before.
However, the future does not just happen on its own; the present needs to have a vision of what the future might be. And within the health sector there is currently an impressive amount of vision.
Let me share some examples of technologies that are influencing the development of our hospitals.
Healthcare use of artificial intelligence (AI) is expected to grow rapidly. Examples of ways that AI could reduce and/or mitigate risk include: helping to detect high risk patients by identifying those in need of medical intervention and triggering alerts to medical staff; and helping to deliver personalised recommended dosages by factoring in the unique body chemistry and associated environmental factors associated with individual patients.
The UK’s Babylon Health has a patient-centered remote consultation service that, through deep learning, can provide users with personalised insights to help them to better understand their health.
Surgical Robots are machines that execute surgical tasks. But they are not autonomous. A (human) surgeon performs the surgery using robotic instruments that they guide via a console. Although tiny wristed instruments move like a human hand, they have a much greater range of motion. The small size of the instruments means surgeons can operate through one (or a few) small incisions, helping with complicated operations by allowing greater precision and flexibility than traditional techniques.
Globally, da Vinci surgical systems is the oldest and most widely used system in this field.
Wayfinding is an important step forward in making hospitals become more patient-oriented. It also saves the hospital time and money.
More than 85% of patients ask for directions when they go to a hospital or other public health facility, and 30% of first-time visitors get lost (Source: Deloitte Digital). Wayfinding enables patients and other visitors to navigate from outside the hospital all the way to the specific location they need, whether that is a bed on a ward, a consulting room, the café, or the pharmacy.
This saves staff time; many times a day doctors and nurses are stopped (and therefore delayed) by visitors asking for directions; and often patients are late for appointments as they are lost within the hospital. Indoor Wayfinding solves both these problems.
Global positioning systems are part of everyday life and, in normal times at least, help to guide millions of people and vehicles down roads and pavements every day. Since the arrival of Google Maps, we are used to reliable digital navigation outdoors, so it’s an obvious next step to take this navigation indoors.
For example, Buzzstreets technology helps people navigate easier through a hospital as well as giving them a more independent experience. The navigation app can personlise the route, so if you want to avoid the stairs it will show you how, it can also choose the fastest or least busy route for you, plus it can highlight interesting features along the way, for example, it can tell you more about the art on the walls of the corridors.
BuzzStreets also includes features such as a communication system between patient and doctor, the possibility of scheduling appointments, receiving medical scans and prescriptions in the app, heat maps, contextual notification, updated and edited locations, appointment reminders, and multilingual voice guidance. All of these features, and indoor Wayfinding in general, have a direct and positive contribution to the experience of patients, staff and visitors.
The BuzzStreets system can be found in a few pioneering hospitals, including the Chelsea and Westminster in London.
Additive manufacturing is where a digital file is used to create physical objects by adding multiple layers – it is more commonly called 3D printing. The origins of the concept are found in the early 1980s and since then more than a dozen methods or technologies have evolved, with examples of 3D printing in medicine (actual and potential) including: organ and tissue manufacturing; personalised medical equipment; customised implants and prosthetics; anatomical models for education and surgical planning.
California-based Organovo is one of the leaders in the research and development of 3D bioprinting; they have a goal of 3D printing patches made of human tissue for defunct organs and entire organs for transplantation.
Nanomedicine applies the tools of nanotechnology to the treatment and prevention of illness. It involves the use of nanoscale materials for the delivery of therapeutics (including vaccines), biomarker discovery, bioimaging and for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases.
There are a number of start-ups around the world with interesting projects, including Israel’s Vecoy Nanomedicines looking to treat viral infections by administering novel nano-scale virus-traps that capture and destroy viruses.
Looking at the NHS we are seeing an agile approach both to the development and the adoption of new technologies. This is allowing the NHS to think outside the box and to imagine new possibilities for example, video calls for healthcare consultations and X-ray diagnostics supported by machine learning algorithms.
Overall embracing technologies is creating a future in which patients will have a more personalised experience when being treated in hospital.