Hospital Innovations – What Can We Expect To See On The Wards Of The Future?
With the fast pace of modern technology, the way we live and work is changing rapidly. In the last year alone, we’ve seen game-changing breakthroughs in a variety of industries, all of which will become indispensable in the future: AI-powered robot microscopes to measure water quality in lakes and oceans, blockchain systems to prevent fraud and counterfeiting, and algebraic structures to improve computer encryption.
It’s hard to think of an area more ripe for innovation, however, than healthcare. Traditionally reliant on old, out-of-date systems, hospital innovations are thriving around the world, with new technology impacting everything from administrative efficiency to patient safety and satisfaction. Hospital innovations have never been so important either: new research suggests that with further healthcare improvements, life expectancy for humans could reach 150 years old.
So what can we expect from our future hospitals?
A more active role from patients
In recent years, the NHS has committed to a Five Year Forward View plan. The plan is made up a number of work programmes designed to maximise the use of modern technology and encourage hospital innovations. The plan will enable patients to take a more active role in their own health and simplify their access to care. To do this, the NHS aims to make significant steps towards:
- Making it easier for patients to access urgent care online
- Simplifying the booking process for face-to-face appointments
- Ensuring patients can get answers by dialling 111, rather than simply advising them to see their doctor
- Improving the accessibility of patient information for doctors in different locations
- Increasing the number of apps patients can use to monitor their own health
The NHS also plans to support hospital innovations in the further future, by nurturing up-and-coming healthcare technologies. In the last year:
- NHS England agreed to commission 33 new treatments. These include auditory brainstem implants for people with hearing loss, and microprocessor controlled prosthetic knees for people with lower limb loss
- 13 new NHS Genomic Medicine Centres have been established across the UK. These collect samples from patients and family members, and aim to establish what is needed to make genomic medicine a regular part of NHS care
- The UK’s healthcare system has supported groundbreaking research on targeting the bacteria that causes tuberculosis. Hospital innovations like this are crucial because they enable treatment that’s not only faster, but more targeted. With a fast diagnosis, scientists can also detect and respond to potential outbreaks in real-time
Better accuracy in surgical procedures
A number of new hospital innovations aim to improve the accuracy of surgical procedures. 3D-printed anatomical models (based on medical image data) can be used to assess surgical procedures and help surgeons to plan for complex surgeries. This reduces the amount of time surgeons will need to spend on planning and preparation, and the amount of time patients spend in surgery.
In the future, minimally invasive surgical procedures should also be the norm. During robotic surgery, miniature instruments are mounted on different robotic arms, giving the surgeon greater precision. On another arm, there will be a magnified high-definition camera, to help guide the surgeon.
Since robots can be used to analyse existing medical data, large incisions won’t be necessary – reducing the amount of time patients will need to spend in recovery. One study of 379 orthopaedic patients found that the use of AI-assisted robotic techniques resulted in a five-fold reduction in surgical complications, compared to when surgeons operated alone.
Hospital innovations move within the home
Another important element of future hospital innovations takes technology out of the hospital and into the home. Currently, for doctors to track movement, monitor breathing or detect problems in patients with Parkinson’s or MS, the patients will need to be in a specialised setting. Keeping track of patients’ symptoms is often considered too difficult to monitor, so patients are encouraged to write in a diary.
A recent prototype from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology uses a combination of radio signals and machine learning algorithms to monitor patients’ physiological signs. As announced at the recent EmTech MIT conference, the system can be used to measure breathing, heart rate, gait, sleep and more throughout a home. It’s currently being tested in 200 homes, and marks a huge step in the future of hospital innovations – a hospital within a home.
Devices to remove human error
The latest hospital innovations don’t just focus on new processes; there’s also a crucial focus on eliminating errors that are otherwise avoidable. Using technology to remove human error within hospitals will save time, money and, most importantly, lives.
One common error targeted by new technology is the misplacement of nasogastric (NG) tubes. These soft tubes are commonly inserted through the nose of patients into the stomach, in order to administer food or medication. However, the tubes can be mistakenly inserted into the lungs, leading to potentially fatal consequences. At the moment, nurses will check that the tube is in the correct place (via x-ray) before every feed. Given that around 800,000 NG tubes are sold each year, it’s an incredibly lengthy and expensive process.
Thanks to new hospital innovations, this process will no longer be needed. The NGPod gives clinicians a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ reading of whether the NG tube is inserted correctly, by detecting pH levels of the environment – in the stomach, the environment has a significantly lower pH to other areas of the body.
India leads the innovation charge
In India, hospital innovations are largely born out of necessity. The availability of staff, equipment and medication varies significantly between states, and patients are often forced to seek care in the expensive private sector. It’s estimated that more than 63 million Indians face impoverishment each year because of the high cost of healthcare.
Startups in India are using technology to create hospital innovations that make the most efficient use of these limited resources. Stasis Labs, a startup based in Bangalore and Los Angeles, has developed a device to monitor patients at a fraction of the regular cost. It’s a small box that monitors vitals like heart rate, blood oxygen and breathing, and streams the data in real time, so doctors can monitor a patient remotely. This data is collected and stored, and Stasis Labs are now using this data to develop an AI solution that will provide an early warning of patient trouble.
The device is already used at 25 hospitals across India and could be in America as early as next year, making it one of the most promising new hospital innovations.
Move into the future with Nursco
The latest hospital innovations prove that when the right people, technology and ideas come together, whole industries can be transformed.
At Nursco, we want to change the way healthcare providers build their teams. We’re focused on simplifying healthcare recruitment, and ensuring healthcare professionals find the right position for them. By using our industry knowledge, expertise and forward-thinking strategies, we provide healthcare recruitment that’s effective for both clients and candidates.
Leave the old world of recruitment behind and move into the future with Nursco: a more dynamic, cost-effective and transparent experience for everyone. Want to find out more? Get in touch with us here.