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ZINNOV PODCAST   |   Business Resilience

Smart Hospitals: The Future of Augmented Healthcare

Hema Purohit
Hema Purohit CTO – EMEA, Public Sector & Healthcare Microsoft

In an ideal world, when you enter a hospital, you wouldn’t need to fill out any paperwork and all your medical history will be stored in records, accessible with your unique number. But what if that went a step further – and hospitals, with the help of AI and 5G introduced face recognition as a smart alternative? How will this change patient experience? How can hospitals ensure seamless delivery across the Healthcare value chain, from a smart hospital?

Listen to this insightful conversation where Hema Purohit, CTO, Healthcare & Public Sector, EMEA, Microsoft talks to Rajat Kohli, Partner at Zinnov, about the future of Healthcare and how smart hospitals will usher in a new era of seamless patient experiences.

Hema has extensive experience in the Healthcare domain as well as leading public sector technology engagements. The two leaders chat about how technology can aid in predictive healthcare, treatment, and also alleviate hospital burden in multiple ways. The episode explores how Healthcare can become more predictive than reactive in the near future.

Further, with sustainability becoming a key theme across business goals today, Hema also recommends how hospitals can become more conscious in the way they operate and set up systems in place to monitor consumption patterns and spending. Tune in now to know more.

PODCAST TRANSCRIPT

Rajat: Hello everyone and welcome back to a brand new episode of the Zinnov Podcast– Business Resilience Series. I’m Rajat Kohli, Partner at Zinnov, and I’ll be your host for today. In the last couple of years, the Healthcare sector has been in the spotlight– with accelerated adoption of technologies to drive enhanced patient experiences, both within and outside the hospital.

While robotic surgery, telemedicine and Automation of several processes have become table stakes within the Healthcare sector– cutting edge technologies such as augmented reality, Metaverse, and Artificial Intelligence are opening up newer ways to deliver patient outcomes, while also improving efficiencies. Does that mean smart hospitals will become a critical call in the future of the Healthcare?

To shed more light on where the future of Healthcare is headed­– I am, today, in conversation with Hema Purohit, CTO, EMEA, Public Sector and Healthcare at Microsoft. Hema is a seasoned, highly experienced– technology and business transformation evangelist. Well versed in the design, development, delivery, and support of large customers as well as internal teams on technology solutions, business value, and industry relevance. Welcome to this episode Hema, it’s great to have you with us today.

Hema: Thank you, Rajat. It’s always a pleasure to talk to you. I’m looking forward to this.

Rajat: So let’s get into the conversation. Hema, you are a veteran in the Healthcare industry, transforming them with technology and driving tangible business outcomes. With Healthcare becoming smarter across the value chain, smart hospitals aren’t very far in the future. It’s very important to know how you define the hospital of the future. What is in it for the providers, payers, and patients?

Hema: The future of Healthcare is a very interesting concept. It’s a very interesting area and actually what I see in the future is that– the hospital will no longer just be a facility, it will actually become part of a system. So, you know, for me, the future of Healthcare and the hospital of the future is very much about flexibility. It’s about agility. It’s about the hospital or the facility actually becoming an area of wellness. So a center– where we are predictive rather than being reactive. The experience will be key for the patient, but also there will be that bridge between a physical location and actually care at home. So, as more and more people choose to be treated at home, we have more conditions that we want to actually look at and monitor ourselves. It’s going to become very much around that relationship between a physical facility and telehealth and telemedicine. So, for me, the intelligent hospital is where technology will be enabled from the ground up and it will be there to ensure that we have faster diagnosis, faster treatment, better outcomes for patients, and we overall­– we’re going to improve the quality of life. So, I think there’s lots of scope and lots of potential there.

Rajat: Interesting. But if you look at it from the other angle, are there any challenges or any business problems that exist today in the Healthcare sector? That there’s a need for the smart hospital. I’m sure that the transformation is taking place and it will solve some of the new innovation or the disruption. But are there any challenges that can be addressed by the smart hospitals­– going forward?

Hema: Absolutely. I think that the biggest problem that we have worldwide is resources. So physical labor, to manage the overflow of patients, the enablement of technology, and the creation of the hospital of the future– I think is a better way of working, it’s a more intelligent way of working. So, we extend out those services that we expect to receive in a physical location, out into the home, into the community, into social care. So, the use of that technology of telemedicine (and) telehealth is going to have a big impact on actually relieving the burden. The use of technology in areas such as emerging technology– so AI, machine learning, et cetera– where we start to automate tasks. That will be very important. So we take away the time that is spent on doing administrative tasks and we start to give back, those resources, the time to spend with patients physically. So, that’s one of the biggest challenges that the use of technology can actually help to address today. And in the future.

Rajat: The two angles that you mentioned, that technology definitely will simplify and the stakeholders are the business functions that matters­– like the board of directors are also concerned about this. But if you look at what the areas of smart hospitals, or I should say, the key components of the hospital value chain for technology adoption, can we expect new-age technologies such as blockchain, the multi-cloud adoption, AI, metaverse, or the exoskeleton would be the in the future of the hospitals?

Hema: It’s making me smile actually as you say that because for me– a lot of those things are already happening today. So, we talk about hospital of the future, but actually we shouldn’t forget that we have made great strides already in Healthcare. So, there are some amazing examples out there where exoskeletons are being used today, you know. They’re being used in rehabilitation hospitals, in specialist units to help people to start walking again. They’re giving people the experience. Individuals who are paralyzed are able to use exoskeletons to actually get back to some level of normality. So that’s happening today, right. That’s real. AI is being used in radiology. It’s being used to detect skin diseases, skin cancer today. It’s speeding up that process of, actually, the analysis and the diagnosis. Where can we expect technology, I think, in the future? That’s an interesting one because, for me, technology and a smart hospital, or an intelligent hospital, starts with the real estate. It’s the physical building. So, it is the facility– a smarter and intelligent scheduling system that allows us to power those rooms up and power them down when they’re not being used. Maybe in the future we’ll get to the point where hospitals will share their resources, right? So, if we have one hospital in a remote area that doesn’t need their operating theater but another hospital is overburdened, maybe they will be the option to start to book a room at a different hospital, right. So I think, real estate, the management of the facilities, the operations, being able to actually automate the incidents and the service management– those things that are being done manually today, absolutely, you know, will be there in the future, I think, in these facilities. And also from a patient experience, you know, patients are used to seeing clinicians and nurses walk around with a notepad and a pen and a paper and, you know, we’re writing down observations and statistics, et cetera. In the future, you won’t need to do that. There’ll be a smart patch that the patient wears, which will continuously monitor vitals. That information will be uploaded in real-time. So, there is so much out there already that it’s either embryonic or it’s starting to be used that I think, you know, the potential for how far we go with these things in the future is literally down to our imagination. Technology will go as far as we push it.

Rajat: Wow. Someone observing our health metrics every time, makes it easy for the patient experience. I’m sure that AI and Analytics are also shaping the future of hospitals and especially to provide personalization, efficiency or effective care to the patients. What could be some of the interesting use cases or enhanced use cases within the AI Analytics purview for these smart hospitals? Can AI also help in the resource optimization and talent monitoring for the hospitals of the future? What are your viewpoints?

Hema: You know, the future of AI and Analytics is very much around– helping us to become predictive rather than being reactive in Healthcare. Today, hospitals are seen very much as a place where you go to be, if you’re sick or you’re ill, you go when something happens. I think in the future, those Analytics about individuals, about patients, about lifestyles. So all those sentiment Analytics that we are starting to collect around communities, they will start to feed into a much more predictive and precision-led medicine. Where, actually, the hospital will become a wellness center. If you’ve got wearables, you’ve got devices at home– medical devices that monitor your blood pressure, blood test can be taken at home. The results can be sent straight through to you electronically. There is so much out there today that can actually start to help you to understand what the state of your health is. That, actually, the need for the hospital is starting to reduce, right. So, that reduction of the burden of a footfall into a hospital is going to be very important and I think that, actually, those Analytics and that AI will absolutely help to simplify the roles of the individuals, there, who are delivering care. So, if you’re a nurse, you’re a radiologist, whoever you are in the hospital today, the biggest problem is– you just can’t see enough people. There aren’t enough hours in the day. But if we are using AI and Analytics to help you to do some of the more mundane administrative side of those tasks, then you’ll be given that time back. So, Healthcare today is seen as– it’s a really stressful job, it’s hard, it’s low pay, et cetera, et cetera. I think the use of technology in the future will attract more talent because ultimately, people who go into Healthcare do it because they have a passion. They want to help people lead better lives. They want to be able to contribute towards somebody’s wellness. And I think some of that passion is taken away by the complexity of the job today. Tomorrow, hopefully, the use of that technology will simplify the role and relieve the burden, and it will make it a much more attractive and an appealing industry to be in, I think.

Rajat: Wow. And I think the timing of this recording of the podcast is very appropriate. What is your viewpoint on the generative AI­– in the case of the future of the hospital?

Hema: I think generative, AI has lots and lots of potential. Adaptive AI, generative AI, etc., it can go as far as we push it. There’s a lot more testing to be done. There’s a lot more that needs to be done to validate use cases in terms of where it’s used and how it’s used. But I believe fully that it’s going to become another one of those technologies that will just become mainstream over time.

Rajat: Okay. Got it. Now, if you look at the other angle, Hema, like the procurement, the distribution, the management of the medical supplies, the equipment, or the other critical parts of the Healthcare supply chain– where do you see the adoption of these modern technologies as you touch upon Internet Of Things (IOT), AI, the blockchain, or Analytics. Where do you see the adoption? And do you see the adoption of the metaverse also– in the management of the supply chain, in the near future?

Hema: I think, meta is a very interesting area. It’s one that is currently unexploited, so it needs a lot more testing. It needs people to go in and really push the boundaries to see what’s there. There are use cases today. Training is a great area for the meta– being able to cross skill people who are coming into Healthcare. To run accreditation programs, to help surgeons, to train a little bit faster and a bit better. So, the metaverse already has that as a use case. Being able to create a metaverse waiting room that is an extension of a physical hospital into a telehealth situation. Absolutely. It provides more of a community in that sense. Have we exhausted all of the options around meta? No, you know. It’s still very embryonic. So, I think that, over the next few years we’ll start to see much more firmer use cases being developed, much more polished experiences, and also we must not forget that the patient has to be part of that. So, do we have the right digital literacy for patients to be able to start to have those experiences in the meta? And I think the answer is open-ended. I think there is a huge amount of potential there. We will see use cases start to happen. Going back to the question around, you know– procurement, supply chain, etc., that is an area that really needs to be addressed, I think in a physical facility, right. Whether we start to use Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags to lock down supplies, make sure that supplies are not just being used, and there is no measurement, no way of tracking what’s being used­– and when it’s being used, we need to reduce that requirement for what needs to be ordered physically. What is it that the hospital needs to how many trips do we expect our suppliers to make to us, right. Are we contributing to the carbon footprint in the economy? Or actually, are we able to do it in a much more intelligent way, so that we have a grip of how many supplies we have– when we need them? Do we automate the process? Do we make sure that we are buying locally? Do we reduce the journey time to the hospital and then back again? You know, they are all things that are currently being investigated. And I think that, you know, there will be a requirement on physical facilities to become much better at the way they manage these things, right. So, there has to be a positive contribution back to the environment.

Rajat: If I ask you what’s the timeframe, Hema, that you feel that the first complete smart hospital, as you defined with the conversions of the technologies, will be ready? Is it like near term or is it going to take a couple of years?

Hema: I think it depends very much on which part of the world that you live in, right. So, I think, if we look at Saudi Arabia, we look at Abu Dhabi– they have resources available, they have technology available, and they have the desire to go and want to do this, right. So, you will already see some amazing examples already there– of hospitals that are very intelligent and very smart and I think they’re very advanced. If we come back to the UK and Europe, I think there are hospitals in pockets that are doing, individually, things that could be classified as intelligent. Have we actually built a smart hospital from ground up? I would say the answer is, no. So, I think, probably, over the next sort of five years plus, we will start to see more facilities adapted to become intelligent. I hope it’s sooner than that. I would love to see some technology really being used to reduce waiting times, get people better, faster– become more predictive, but also to become more efficient. There is always a drain on resources and finances in Healthcare and actually I think technology can help to contribute to bring that down.

Rajat: the countries that you highlighted, it’s an interesting fact for us that­– these are the countries that are thinking of the future of hospitals and they’re in the journey. The other important angle or lens around the Healthcare industry is sustainability. It’s the most talked about theme across industries, including Healthcare. What is the significance of sustainability in the reality of Healthcare? What could be the possible significance of the green spaces signals, other renewables, all the sustainable procurement– when talking about the hospitals of the future. Now, if you look at the hospital of the future, who in that organization is currently focusing on this, I would say– the initiative? You mentioned, the board of directors definitely have a big focus on that but which are the other key stakeholders that are looking at this and trying to implement it? Like who are the key stakeholders?

Hema: That’s a really interesting question because I think in different regions, the answer is different. So, we’re starting to see sustainability offices or people who have the word sustainability in their title start to appear now, in the organizations. Is there actually a sustainability officer role? I don’t think that’s uniform yet, across all of Healthcare. I think that it comes down to– there is a target at board level, to be more sustainable or to contribute towards the net zero footprint. But has it really filtered down to the top two or three agenda items, right, for a Healthcare facility? I think in some places, yes. I don’t think it has happened in all of Healthcare just yet, right. It needs to become a little bit more mainstream. I think people need to understand that sustainability is not something you do in addition to your job. It’s something that should be part of your job, right? Sustainability isn’t something we think about after we’ve treated a patient. It’s there throughout the entire pathway, throughout the entire journey. So, it’s that mindset that needs to change. And then I think when that starts to happen, we will really start to see people, sort of, standing up and saying, yes, I am the champion for sustainability, right.

Rajat: Wow. Great. And my last question is, what is your advice to the Costumer Experience Specialists (CXS) or these hospitals when they think of the smart hospital? Like what are those two or three key advice points from you?

Hema: The first one would be– don’t fear technology. I think there’s always been a fear in Healthcare that technology is too hard, it’s too complex, and it’s too expensive. And in the past, yes, it has been all of those things but it doesn’t have to be. My advice would be– work very closely with your partner. Be very honest and open about the requirements that you have and actually understand what does an intelligent hospital mean to you, right? There is a generic definition but that’s not going to be the way that every single hospital reaches its goal. Some of them will become more digitally enabled, some will be slightly less. Everything you do contributes towards being a more intelligent hospital. You know, being very open and honest with your supplier is going to be the first. Second is be very clear in your roadmap. What do you want to achieve and how and when. You don’t just become a smart hospital overnight, these things take time. So, you know, be realistic. Break it down into the things that you can manage and build it up slowly. It’s better to have that journey and to build things up and become more and more mature in your journey then to try and do everything in one go. That’s when it doesn’t work. I think the third thing would be actually– share knowledge. Where you are doing it. Whether you’re a hospital or a Healthcare facility that has already implemented something successfully. Don’t hold that to yourself. Share it with your colleagues. Share it with other hospitals in the region. Go and share it across the continent, right? We’re all here to learn lessons. Some of us do things better than others, so, you know, reuse that knowledge. Because the community is an amazing one. And I think that we all desperately want to learn from each other. So, let’s build up that community and show people how things can be done successfully.

Rajat: Wow. This is great. I think this entire discussion with you, Hema, is an eye-opener and (an) insightful discussion for me and my audience. Thank you for sharing your perspectives with us. I have gained a lot of new perspectives at the intersectionality of Healthcare and technology and I’m sure our listeners as well also found the conversational insightful.
Thank you once again for taking the time and haring your viewpoints (on) how we see the future of the hospital.

Hema: Thank you very much. It’s been lovely to speak to you. We’ve not had it anywhere near enough time, I think, to look at the subject in detail but thank you for the time to come and express my opinions.

Rajat: That’s all for today’s episode. We’ll be back soon with another episode and another pioneering reader. They then take care and stay curious. Thank you so much!

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