How digitization is shaping the hospitals of the future

(Editor’s note: contributed blogs like this are part of’s annual sponsorship program. Find out more here This blog was authored by Mark Collins, vice president of the partner organization at Cisco Canada.)

Smart hospitals are bringing together a breadth of different technologies to improve care and the patient experience in substantive ways. A smart hospital integrates various technologies to improve and quicken operations, ensure medical data is secure, and enhance the patient and clinician experience. In 2020, the new Mackenzie Vaughan Hospital will open, becoming Canada’s first hospital to use technology integrations in a truly ‘smart’ way. It will integrate technology from Cisco, BlackBerry and ThoughtWire showing how technology partners can work together to create hospitals of the future.

Mackenzie Vaughan is establishing 75 smart workflows designed to let hospital staff spend more time caring for patients and less time performing administrative tasks or navigating technology. 

As an example, clinical workflows will be applied to cardiac arrest responses, a scenario that demonstrates how the thoughtful integration of technology can transform a hospital’s operations. An alert from a patient’s vital signs monitor will trigger multiple actions; the patient’s bed will automatically lay flat, to enable resuscitation. The medical records will appear on a bedside display, for quick reference by staff. At the same time, the care team will receive silent alerts about the cardiac arrest. As they head to the patient’s room, they’ll use badges with built-in location services that will override any elevators between them and the patient, saving precious moments. When they arrive at the bedside the alerts will automatically stop. 

The digital bedside interface, powered by FlexITy, will do much more than provide staff with a patient’s history. They will provide patients with easy access to room controls for temperature and lighting, and allow them to select meals – the kind of automation that simplifies a hospital’s more ‘mundane’ tasks while giving patients enhanced control over their environment and stay. 

The interface also opens up possibilities that were unthinkable not that long ago. Patients will use video to speak with their families, and could take advantage of translation services that will help them to better understand their own treatment. 

It’s evident that Mackenzie Vaughan’s smart hospital implementation is focused on the patient. At the top layer, patients will notice improvements in the information readily available to them and the measure of control they have over their room. At the caregiver layer, staff will benefit from improved documentation and more efficient workflows. Underlying it all will be a highly-available wireless network built for both speed and security, which will be implemented by our partner Compugen. This infrastructure layer is invisible to the patient, but makes the improvements in care and operations possible. For example, Mackenzie Vaughan will leverage the power of its wireless network to implement Real-Time Location Systems (RTLS) for hand hygiene solutions, patient tracking and more – supporting patient outcomes.

To understand how a hospital creates a modern IT infrastructure that can support digitization, we can look to Markham Stouffville Hospital, the first Canadian hospital to undertake an INFRastructure Adoption Model (INFRAM) review. The model was developed by the Cisco healthcare team in Australia and New Zealand, and has since been adopted as the global standard for healthcare technology adoption by Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) Analytics. The INFRAM model assesses an organization’s IT infrastructure in parallel with its electronic medical record (EMR) adoption level (EMRAM) and provides the beginnings of an architectural roadmap an organization can follow to make future technology investments and support their strategic plan towards digitization.  

Cisco assessed Markham Stouffville’s needs using INFRAM, working with IT consultancy VertitechIT as well as TELUS, which was responsible for cabling, racking and mounting equipment and networking configuration as part of the network redesign. Next, the roadmap will focus on upgrading the hospital’s collaboration and cybersecurity tools. 

Just like Mackenzie Health, Markham Stouffville aims to improve patient care through digitization. It’s a process that requires expertise, dedicated partners, and long-term planning. As more Canadian hospitals embark on this journey, the benefits of digitization will reach more patients and their families, helping them receive the best care available. 

Learn more about how Cisco and our partners are making a difference in healthcare environments.

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