Axis Communications | How can technology help create the smart and sustainable hospital?


Ian Littell, Axis Communications, explains to Security On Screen how efficiency and sustainability go hand-in-hand when it comes to embracing the digital transformation of healthcare and the smart hospital

Taking steps to embrace the digital transformation of healthcare will result in the creation of smarter private hospitals and NHS Trusts.

Through broad adoption of AI, IoT, 5G networks and other innovative technologies from edge computing to cloud, the smart hospital model promises to unlock benefits of improved connectivity and secure data sharing to deliver better patient experiences, streamlined workflows, and reduced costs.

One of the principal elements is to bring data together to be aggregated and shared in a central hub. Developing a single platform to connect all the systems within a hospital could not only transform every aspect of the way they are run – from admitting patients to handling medicines – to make day-to-day processes smoother and more efficient; but this could also improve the lives of patients with long-term conditions or diseases by easily integrating their at-home wearables and other devices with hospital systems for seamless remote monitoring.

Digital interoperability and data integration

As part of a 2017 government initiative, the Cloud-First policy, the NHS is working to ensure that Trusts begin moving wherever possible their digital services to the public cloud, the backbone of data integration.

Ensuring all IoT-enabled technology implementations can ‘speak’ to each other over an IT network is vital to prevent another version of a siloed system with disjointed service provision.

By creating systems that can share the huge quantities of health data that is available between departments, deeper insights can be discovered and, critically, patient experiences improved.

The use of physical security technology across NHS sites is also being transformed with network cameras and sensors now increasingly being considered for a wide range of uses beyond security alone.

Video sensors are essentially forming an internet of video things (IoVT) combining camera visuals, video analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) to streamline and optimise many of the processes across the healthcare spectrum.

Knowledge, expertise and insight from video data

During the pandemic network camera technology played a dual role within the hospital environment, keeping people connected at a time when visiting was prohibited as well as enabling medical professionals to remotely monitor many more patients than would have been possible in person.

Fast-forward to today and this technology is still evident in its ability to facilitate communication between patients and medical professionals when required, or between staff members across the Trust estate or even from other sites, without ever having to be physically present.

Where video technology is now pushing new boundaries is through its ability to allow medical professionals to tap into expertise or collaborate on a patient case remotely via video, with the offsite party able to see high-quality video of, for example, a surgical procedure.

This sharing of knowledge in real-time is a huge benefit and could have life-saving implications when access to research, the latest thinking on a medical topic, or just a second opinion, becomes immediate. The use of video data is similarly invaluable from a teaching and training perspective.

Smarter access management

Something as practical and functional as controlling access to the Trust estate, wards and offices is a good example of the positive impact of technological advancement over legacy processes.

That is, each building across a Trust site commonly has its own discrete access control system which is activated by a lanyard or key fob following a process of authorisation.

Localised access control means that an individual is required to register at each site using different systems that do not communicate with one another, which is both time consuming and burdensome for administrators and for those requesting admission.

To address this issue, an innovative approach using connected technologies now enables staff to use a single form of credential, a card or key fob, to gain access to multiple entrance points across the estate via a centralised database.

Such an approach simplifies administration and removes the headache associated with previously laborious processes such as the onboarding and offboarding of staff. Cloud storage removes the need to keep data about each individual’s access credentials on premises, while network cameras provide a second factor of authentication quickly and efficiently.

The management of delivery vehicles also presents a challenge for operations and security personnel around a hospital estate, and here video data hosted in the cloud can be instrumental in alleviating pressure while presenting a solution.

Network cameras can identify an approaching vehicle using automatic number-plate recognition (ANPR) – an on-camera analytic used to identify a pre-registered delivery vehicle and automate entry.  

Efficient and sustainable operations

But how does this support the 200+ NHS Trusts across the UK and the Greener NHS programme? As we look to better harness the potential of machines to boost productivity and efficiency, we should also point to the benefits of a leaner use of resources and less waste.

Deploying a network camera system that is designed for optimal power consumption is better for the environment and will ultimately represent cost savings to the Trust from an energy point of view.

For example, the use of software applications and edge processing preserves solely the important forensic detail which means that only relevant video data is passed back through the cloud for storage or wider analysis saving on bandwidth and energy by an average of 50%.

In addition, the use of reusable and recyclable materials in the manufacturing of security products supports a greener service agenda. Centralisation also extends to the running and maintenance of systems, whereby updates and upgrades can often be carried out remotely without the need for engineers to travel to the site or cause disruption to vital NHS services.

With the UK Government’s commitment to build 48 new hospitals by 2030, with £3.7 billion committed so far, now is the time to strive for transformation through advancements in technology. In the smart hospital, network cameras used as sensors for their ability to collect and process data, will have a key role to play in supporting the digital transformation of healthcare.

Redesigning systems based around digital interoperability and video data sharing will not only help unlock much needed efficiencies within our healthcare system, but also start to pave the way towards a smarter and more sustainable NHS.

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