Comment: A smart start for smart hospitals

Gary Thompson, UK sales director for Siemens industries and markets at Siemens Financial Services (SFS), explores the application of smart building systems in hospitals

Smart building systems can help hospitals to reduce energy use and operate more efficiently

The digital transformation of buildings is growing, with the sales of smart-building technology predicted to increase in the region of 30% per year.

Non-domestic buildings, such as hospitals, are responsible for 10%-15% of carbon emissions, and reducing their consumption would contribute to the healthiness of urban environments.

Understanding the benefits of smart hospitals is one thing; finding affordable and sustainable ways of achieving smart-building conversion is another

Smart buildings have the potential to save approximately 15%-25% on energy costs and this should be a goal for both private and public-sector building owners.

Smart buildings are those that utilise advanced technology to achieve a series of benefits, such as improving building performance; lowering the costs of equipment maintenance; and generating higher user-satisfaction rates.

And to meet these goals, digitalisation is key.

Hospitals provide an environment where smart-building technologies and controls can deliver substantial return on investment.

Lighting controls use sensors to illuminate areas only when needed.

LED technology saves on energy consumption and offers sophisticated colour and brightness combinations to manage patient comfort, as well as staff productivity.

Light has been shown to have an impact on patient outcomes in the healthcare environment, for example, reducing depression among patients and decreasing the length of stay in hospitals.

In Accident and Emergency departments, related benefits include easing pain and improving staff members’ adjustment to night shifts.

Another smart building tool is ;asset tracking;, which can manage access to mobile equipment so that it can be rapidly located and used.

Similarly, automated dispensary systems can track precisely where prescriptions are in the building.

Even hospital beds are now being fitted with sensors through which staff can input bed status, allowing effective central control and admissions allocation.

Smart-building systems will also track the location of patients, visitors and hospital staff.

Clinician location is critical to patient management and can incorporate automated workflows through a series of responders so that critical events do not experience delays.

With budgets under pressure, some hospital CFOs may assume that investment in smart-building conversion is unachievable, but financing techniques now exist, allowing hospitals to capitalise on the many benefits of smart buildings with low or zero net cost

Tracking people through mobile devices also helps to protect exposed workers in the healthcare environment with ‘man down’ alerts and automated escalation procedures.

When it comes to security, remote surveillance reduces the impact of false alarms, as well as focusing staff time away from manual surveillance and validation and toward active building management.

Understanding the benefits of smart hospitals is one thing; finding affordable and sustainable ways of achieving smart-building conversion is another.

Pioneering hospital chief finance officers are increasingly looking for ways to pay for outcomes.

In the case of smart buildings, this is leading to the rise of a concept called Smart Buildings as a Service – sometimes called ‘servitisation’.

Landlords and owner-occupiers are conserving their capital for growth and improvement initiatives and are choosing to let integrated technology-service-finance companies fund the digital transformation of their buildings.

There are a variety of modern financing models that allow this to happen, but the most attractive of these involves smart solutions partners that are able to do this at low or zero net cost for the building’s owner – public or private.

This shift in thinking requires a new mindset

Research from SFS has estimated the value of smart-building conversion of hospitals that could conservatively be enabled through self-financing in the UK to be $521m:

Using smart financing techniques, the integrated solutions provider introduces technology and systems to create intelligent buildings that deliver a predictable level of energy savings.

The reduction in energy costs is then harnessed to effectively fund the cost of conversion.

While the level of energy reduction will vary, in most cases the savings can be reliably reflected in a financing structure to deliver self-financing smart-building upgrades globally.

With budgets under pressure, some hospital CFOs may assume that investment in smart-building conversion is unachievable, but financing techniques now exist, allowing hospitals to capitalise on the many benefits of smart buildings with low or zero net cost.

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