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Smart hospitals: patient-centred means digital-first

The effectiveness of hospitals is undoubtedly built on the skills of clinicians and administrative staff. However, in today's digital era, there is so much more that technology can do to support them in delivering superior outcomes, while also improving their working lives, and the efficiency of the hospital.
Healthcare worker with tablet visiting a patient at their home

These benefits are driving the emergence of smart hospitals, which use digital technologies to improve clinical outcomes, reduce risk, drive better experiences for patients and staff and assist in managing costs.

The drive to smart hospitals has been boosted by the COVID-19 pandemic, which placed incredible strain on hospital and health service operators, but also showcased the role technology can play in supporting them.

As a result, there is a significant push from within the health sector to continue down the path of digital transformation. 

But there are many important factors to be understood when designing a hospital that is truly smart.

Patient-centred means digital-first

According to the recent Optus whitepaper Smart Hospitals: The Future of Healthcare, a smart hospital is built on a foundational technology platform upon which further investments can be made.

Taking this platform approach means that adding new smart hospital functionality, such as systems for monitoring space utilisation, or device asset tracking, or wayfinding for patients, is a simple matter of adding a new application onto the platform.

This platform approach brings together numerous technologies, starting with connected infrastructure including Wi-Fi and ultra-fast 5G, which are used to support both physical and virtual environments, and which are in turn overlayed with a health information architecture.

Platforms must be made robust and resilient by combining intelligent automation, sensors, and predictive analytics, with cybersecurity and scalable cloud platforms to provide a secure and reliable healthcare environment.

A smart hospital platform must also be made sustainable, by supporting the tools and capabilities that hospitals need to achieve both economic and environmental outcomes.

And as its name suggests, a smart hospital platform must also be intelligent, by combining connected platforms and data with access to insights that support fast and accurate real-time decisions – both clinical and operational.

Mother and her child remotely meeting with a doctor over webcam

Benefits of being smart

The benefits of smart platforms are becoming well understood, with analysis from McKinsey1 suggesting that in most OECD countries, implementing digital technologies in healthcare delivery could help deliver cost savings of more than 10 per cent of overall annual national healthcare expenditures.

The savings are easy to see, with research from Vector Consulting2 finding that smart hospital investments were often driven by goals of improving space and asset utilisation to lower costs or to improve staff experience and safety. One example is digital tools for locating people and assets, which Vector found had already been adopted by just over 20 per cent of respondents, with another 40 per cent intending to do so.

Vector also found respondents sought benefits including space analytics to provide insights on room usage and peak times in waiting rooms, and optimised scheduling using data analytics to improve operating room schedules and reduce the amount of idle time between procedures.

But perhaps most importantly, such investments can also support better health outcomes – a goal that Vector found was driving 65 per cent of smart hospital investments.

Building the smart hospital

Building a smart hospital starts with bringing together hospital operations, technology capability, clinical staff, and patients, and aligning them to a digital vision that works for all.

Its foundation is the connectivity between the built and digital worlds. This makes it critical for health planners to consider and accommodate digital technologies when designing new facilities and upgrading older ones, to ensure today's decisions do not limit tomorrow's options.

The long-term opportunity is to create true data-driven hospital experiences, where data is gathered seamlessly using a combination of manual and automated data entry, which then accompanies a patient's experience. This might also include integration with external data sources such as patient records, combined with that from automated internal systems related to patient movement, consultation, dispensing, and other vital services.

Having data available in such a way can not only support the patient experience, but when appropriately anonymised and managed, it can be used to create digital twins which can be used for planning and what-if analysis.

Strength through partnership

Cisco and Optus' long partnership in delivering secure, scalable, and resilient connectivity platforms is an essential element for creating trust with health care providers who have a critical infrastructure requirement.

Technology leadership from both organisations in fields such as 5G and Wi-Fi connectivity, security management and threat resilience, hybrid working, software-defined networks and IoT capabilities are critical for providing skills in all fields required to deliver future value to customers as they begin or continue their transformation journey.  

The value of this relationship is highlighted in Optus and Cisco's partnership in the National Industry Innovation Network, which brings a new way of combining the assets and expertise of industry and universities to provide a rapid response to industry problems and challenges of national interest.

This partnership is helping uncover new ways to improve the joint value of healthcare and technology, through examining use cases such as the creation of private 5G healthcare networks to capture and transmit real-time patient data, support robot assisted clinical services, and deliver asset-tracking of clinical and tech devices.

Healthcare worker utilizing tablet to share medical scan with patient

These networks can provide a single platform to operate and manage clinical workflows while providing public and private network connectivity and supporting building management systems and security operation.


Hospitals must always take a patient-first approach to the provision of healthcare. But by taking a 'digital-first' approach to service design, they can go a long way to supporting this mission in innovative and highly beneficial ways.

And when this leads to the creation of a smart digital platform, they can find themselves not only delivering better clinical outcomes through the faster adoption of new technologies and processes, but they can also use this platform to deliver better outcomes for clinicians and staff, and for health service providers.

And that is what will make hospitals truly smart.

To find out more request a copy of the  Optus report 'Smart Hospitals: The Future of Healthcare'

Finding the future of care provision: The role of smart hospitals | McKinsey
2 Vector Consulting Independent research commissioned by Optus and Cisco, 2021

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