Want to run your healthcare facility more efficiently? Here's how you can do it.

Schneider Electric
Monday, 04 July, 2022

We all want to improve our health delivery systems to increase the wellbeing of patients in our hospitals. One of the most effective ways of doing this is by using real-time data and information to assist with decision making on clinical efficiencies, patient movement and building operations.

Schneider Electric’s Solution Architect for Buildings Business, Daniel Garcia Gil, says embracing an integrated digital future will allow healthcare facilities to better navigate and adopt new trends.

“From patient-centric care to challenges around workforce and skills shortages, we know that to produce the best possible outcomes, data from a number of different sources needs to be normalised, analysed and actioned in a holistic manner. We want to bridge the data gap across the entire value chain from facilities and care delivery to administration, in order to improve delivery of healthcare services. The best way to do this is for healthcare facilities to utilise an operational digital twin.”

How will digital twin technology assist healthcare?

A digital twin is a virtual replica of systems, processes and infrastructure across an entire enterprise. It includes the relationships between these parts and has the potential to be the heart of a real-time health system. Data from all inputs are brought together to provide an all-encompassing system which, through the use of machine learning and artificial intelligence, can enable optimal solutions and reduce risk. In a healthcare setting, the digital twin can optimise operational strategies, bed capacity, staff scheduling and care models. The digital twin can be configured to test the influences of changes on system performance without risks, as well as for modelling of new scenarios.

Using the global pandemic as an example, Mr Garcia says that if a new virus were to spread around the world, then a digital twin could be employed at healthcare facilities to analyse the flexibility of the infrastructure and offer recommended actions.

“If a new threat were to occur, a digital twin platform, which collects and processes healthcare facility, IT and operational data, could be used to alleviate pressures relating to the stretching of capacities and saturation of emergency departments and ICUs,” Mr Garcia says. “Analysing the collected data, an operational digital twin could then run predictions on what impact decisions such as the cancellation of elective surgery, or different public health prevention measures, might have on clinical services and operations.”

Likewise, any information collected and analysed by the digital twin previously could be used to predict clinical and facility metrics and provide insights. This could be information such as:

  • if and when elective surgery needs to be cancelled,
  • recommendations for repurposing hospital areas as isolation rooms (or wards) or for ICU purposes,
  • frequency of monitoring and replacement of infrastructure needs, such as filters or respirators.

“As we can see, a real-time health system not only provides ‘as it happens’ information but also offers background data collection and correlation to provide future insights,” Mr Garcia says.

On a more local level, an operational digital twin can provide evidence into how patient care can be carried out most effectively.

“If an inpatient has been booked for a procedure that’s scheduled to last for up to 4 hours, plus post-operative observations, the digital twin is able to model the patient and all the ancillaries that are involved,” Mr Garcia says. “In this instance, notifications can be sent to all relevant parties, such as the clinical team undertaking the operation, transportation of the patient (including alternative paths if there’s maintenance going on or a lift out of order), location and status of equipment needed for the operation, and any dispensing of post-operative pharmaceutical medication. The facility management team can also be notified that the room is vacant at that time and that any maintenance or cleaning can occur. Systems in the room can also be put on stand-by to save energy. As you can see, the entire system can be mapped out as one activity.”

Supporting infrastructure

In order for this digital streamlining and efficiency to take place, healthcare facilities must have the ability to model all systems within their enterprise. All of this data, from clinical systems, sensors, medical devices through to administration, facility and IT systems, needs to be brought into the one operational digital twin.

“The good news is, this data collection is already happening at most healthcare facilities,” Mr Garcia says. “The bad news is that often it is being collected in separate, siloed databases which don’t, or can’t, talk to each other. Schneider Electric expert teams can audit your facilities and identify potential areas of friction for data integration as well as design roadmaps to transition to a more integrated digital platform.”

Connecting and modelling newer connectable assets can be a simple task, but it is a bit more cumbersome for older assets where the process will require finding documentation, maintenance sheets and datasheets in order to create an accurate model. For this later case, an accuracy assumption for the prediction will have to be made.

Once you have digital twin infrastructure operating, Mr Garcia says that success is determined by reliable and sustainable infrastructure.

“Critical plants, backup power systems, electrical infrastructure, pneumatic tube systems and automated pharmacy systems must all be running optimally to ensure premium healthcare is maintained,” Mr Garcia says. “Because we now have full visibility of our facility infrastructure thanks to the digital twin, we can see how flexible it is to quickly adapt to new models of care and clinical needs. We can implement a predictive and proactive asset maintenance strategy and avoid infrastructure checks based on a non-prioritised list of reactive tasks. We can ensure that if a pandemic or emergency mode is triggered, visibility of key facility items is prioritised so that healthcare workers can continue to do their jobs for better patient outcomes.”

Digital priorities

Mr Garcia says that by making digital connections and analysis a priority in healthcare, we have the ability to improve the overall system and to drive better health outcomes.

“Bringing visibility to all systems and structures across a healthcare facility means we can build a dynamic and flexible infrastructure which is sustainable and future-ready,” Mr Garcia says. “Preventative maintenance, better visibility and a clearer understanding of how systems can work together, will give us better insights and understanding for the future. This means that our everyday health services, as well as our emergency response, can be better managed as we pivot quickly to ensure fast, optimal outcomes.”

For more information about Schneider Electric’s Healthcare solutions for the future visit se.com/au/buildings-of-the-future.

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/sudok1

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