Due to open in early 2025, the new hospital is poised to change the way clinical staff care for patients. What won’t be new: up to 95 percent of the technology in place. From virtual care to wayfinding and integrated voice response in the call center, the technology to run the new smart hospital is in use or soon to be piloted at the health system’s other eight campuses.
“We think of Cypress as the landing point, not the departure point,” says Murat Uralkan, director of innovation at Houston Methodist Center for Innovation. “We know that we want to lead medicine with innovation. Cypress gives us a unique opportunity to implement everything we’re working on in one place without retrofitting an existing facility.”
Houston Methodist’s new hospital represents a growing trend in healthcare: bringing together previously disparate innovations and enabling technology to support the patient journey from beginning to end, inside and outside hospital walls.
‘Innovation Is Everyone’s Responsibility’
One major challenge to building smart hospitals has been a piecemeal approach to implementation. Technology that works for one business unit might not work for another, let alone an entire organization.
Three things signal a change, however. One is a growing willingness to integrate innovation with operational, clinical and IT decision-makers rather than treating innovation as its own department. “Innovation is everyone’s responsibility; it’s not just a few people,” Uralkan says.
The second is a significant decrease in the cost of storage and computing power. Just five years ago, it would take months to find the servers that could fulfill a request to process a few terabytes’ worth of data, says Sameer Sethi, senior vice president and chief data and analytics officer at New Jersey-based Hackensack Meridian Health.
Now, he says, “Our CTO just swipes his credit card. We can scale up innovation very quickly.”
The third shift pushing smart hospitals forward is focusing less on what a product can do and more on what problems need to be solved; this was exemplified by the COVID-19 pandemic response in healthcare.
Through a cloud infrastructure partnership with Google, Hackensack Meridian Health was able to deploy more than 3,000 Chromebooks running Citrix in a matter of days to support remote work in March 2020.
“The problem in healthcare is that you have to pivot very quickly. Analog and paper and even on-premises data centers never allowed us to pivot that quickly,” says Mark Eimer, senior vice president, associate CIO and CTO at Hackensack Meridian Health.
Both Hackensack Meridian Health and Houston Methodist first implemented and then expanded virtual nursing pilots amid the pandemic as well. Health system leaders saw nurses slammed with administrative work during admissions and discharge. Amid a significant nursing shortage projected to hit 450,000 as soon as 2025, Eimer says, it was imperative to limit burnout.
Virtual nursing, with staff working remotely and dialing into patient rooms for admission or discharge interviews or observation, quickly proved popular.
“Within two weeks, the units piloting the program said, ‘Don’t take this away,’” Houston Methodist Cypress Hospital CEO Trent Fulin says. “Word spread, and it started to snowball. Everyone started to see the value of the technology.”
Hackensack Meridian Health further coupled virtual nursing with medical-grade wearable devices to support real-time vital sign monitoring. This eliminated the need for frequent rounding, allowing nurses to focus on value-added tasks, Eimer says.
It also augmented clinical insight: “Collecting the data in real time and digitizing it quickly helps drive our evidence-based reporting,” he adds.