Digital Applications in Healthcare

Tetra Tech’s High Performance Buildings Group experts explore technology developments in designing and constructing healthcare facilities.

Until recently, Information and Communications Technology (ICT) played a secondary consideration in the design and construction of a hospital. Today however, technology has become a design priority for healthcare facilities.

Hospitals showcase the very latest in ICT innovation. There’s no doubt that the application of technology in healthcare has led to medical advancements, as well as significant enhancements in the integration, efficiency, and delivery of services. The utilization of technology in hospitals and the delivery of hospital services has massively increased within the past five years.

The industry is witnessing a simultaneous increase in the sophistication of ICT. Consideration of technological integration in healthcare facility infrastructure is more frequently being undertaken at the outset of a project—rather than as an add-on or future upgrade. Technology now influences processes and procedures in hospitals and operating theatres. For example, digital imaging, access to patient records, and sharing of information between a surgeon and pathologist, all in real-time, not only facilitate informed treatment decisions but reduce time and operative costs.

Evolving design processes must now accommodate advancements in software, networking, interior infrastructure, and refinement in the delivery of services. The time is not far off when engineering design will be influenced by the proposed software rather than the other way around.

For the Mater Private Hospital in Queensland, Australia, a full-scale prototype of a patient room was developed to test, among other things, ICT integration and integrated room control. The result was not only a reduction in the number of patient falls, but an increase in the level of patient satisfaction and wellbeing.

New healthcare projects require an array of ICT equipment and systems to be integrated and interfaced through a single infrastructure network. One seamless system brings efficiency, an increase in quality, resilience, and a reduction in lifecycle cost. At the user-end a patient can order their own meals electronically, an Automated Guided Vehicle (AGV) system can instruct security to open a door, and clinical staff can access real-time patient records from anywhere in the hospital. This level of integration applied at the New Bendigo Hospital, Victoria’s largest regional hospital, involves one converged network and widespread use of AGVs.

While bricks and mortar may make the visual statement, the true smarts and functionality in a healthcare environment today are around the technology and the ICT infrastructure. Extracting the true value of effective system integration requires appropriately skilled engineers to allow flexibility for the future, capacity for the unknown future, and design infrastructure that will deliver those services for the effective life cycle of the building.