The healthcare industry is a hotbed of innovation. But mostly when it comes to identifying new cures and treatments.
While healthcare professionals are always working to identify new, cutting-edge ways to treat diseases, cure conditions, and otherwise save lives, it often comes at the expense of embracing other new and exciting technologies.
However, the healthcare industry recently had innovation and new technologies thrust upon them as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As the world went remote, healthcare organizations found themselves scrambling to embrace telemedicine, electronic health records, IoT devices, and other technologies that could enable continuity of operations and patient care despite physical distance. And it’s difficult to foresee the industry going back to “business as usual” now that the pandemic is winding down and this high-tech pandora’s box has been opened.
But healthcare IT solutions and technologies need connectivity and physical infrastructure to enable them. And not all hospitals, doctor’s offices, and healthcare facilities have been built with this futuristic requirement in mind.
To learn more about how healthcare IT solutions and technologies can impact the physical design of healthcare facilities – and what they need to do to plan for future healthcare IT adoption and growth the Government Technology Insider Podcast sat down to record their latest episode with Darren Smith, the Senior Director of Operations for the AV/Security and DAS/Wireless specialty divisions at E2 Optics.
Darren works directly with healthcare organizations to ensure their facilities are ready for the next-generation technologies of today and tomorrow. Click the play button below to hear his insights about embracing innovation in the healthcare industry, or scroll down to read a transcript of their discussion.
Government Technology Insider Podcast: Are Healthcare Facilities Built to Meet Health IT Requirements?
Ryan Schradin: Hello and welcome to the latest episode of the Government Technology Insider Podcast where we discuss how new technologies and digital transformation initiatives are changing the way public sector organizations operate.
My name is Ryan Schradin, and I’m a contributor for the Government Technology Insider. And I’ll be your host for today’s discussion about how technology trends are reshaping healthcare institutions.
Today, digital transformation initiatives are sweeping across every organization in the public and private sectors. In fact, many organizations found themselves having to hit fast forward on those initiatives when the pandemic started, but few sectors were impacted by the pandemic and the “new normal” of COVID life quite like the healthcare industry.
And, when you think about it, that actually makes a lot of sense. The healthcare industry was tasked with trying to accommodate new rules and mandates, their people were forced to work remotely, and they were forced to avoid face-to-face communication. And they had to do these things while spearheading the pandemic response.
That led to a massive shift towards telehealth and a huge need for digital healthcare information and records that were accessible from anywhere. But what are the IT priorities of healthcare organizations today, now that the pandemic is seemingly winding down?
What technologies and IT trends are healthcare organizations embracing? And how will the need to accommodate new technologies change and shape how healthcare organizations expand, grow, and build new facilities to meet the needs of patients moving forward?
To answer these and other questions, we’ve brought in Darren Smith, the Senior Director of Operations for the AV/Security and DAS/Wireless specialty divisions at E2 Optics. Darren, thanks for joining us today.
Darren Smith: Thank you, Ryan. It’s a pleasure to chat with you today.
Ryan Schradin: It’s a pleasure to have you on. I think this is a really interesting topic.
So let’s talk a little bit about the healthcare industry and embracing technology. Has the healthcare industry traditionally been an early adopter of IT solutions and advanced technologies? Or, even post COVID, is the digital transformation of the healthcare industry still in its infancy?
Darren Smith: I think, overall, it’s still in its infancy. And I haven’t seen too many trends that have been shown a push towards early adoption, it always seems like they are the ones that want to methodically plan and grow their technology and stay a little bit behind the curve.
Technology adoption is typically pretty slow and methodical. And recent events, I think, have really helped to force the advancements, like with COVID-19.
Ryan Schradin: So, if COVID is starting to advance digital transformation and IT adoption, what different ways are we seeing that? Is digital transformation limited to just patient records? Or are we seeing technology enter into other areas of the patient experience?
Yeah, I think from the outside most people kind of look at healthcare technology as really simple things, like secure patient portals, cloud computing, and building systems automation. But there are many more levels of advancement in physical and AI-based technology that could and would benefit the entire healthcare industry.
We see trends in crowd temperature monitoring, artificial intelligence used in forecasting, and health emergency trends. And a lot of “behind the scenes” technology that has little to no tangible direct patient exposure. So most people don’t really know that it’s happening, but it’s actually revolutionizing the way that providers work in the background.
We’re also seeing extensive use of video conferencing for patient care and evaluation and telehealth. New technologies and cloud-connected diagnostics, like MRIs, ultrasounds, CAT scans, X-rays, and cath labs, and all of those kinds of things that have, you know, become more Internet of Things connected so that they have the ability to do real-time views in critical moments, regardless of the location of the healthcare provider.
If you need to bring in a specialist, now you can. You can do a lot of that over the Internet so you don’t have to have somebody flying in to do a surgery. These things tend to be trends that we’re seeing and are starting to be adopted now.
We’re also seeing, you know, trends in fully IP-based nurse call systems that are integrated with everything in the hospital, including the life safety system. We also see seeing trends in wearable blood pressure monitors, heart rate monitors, and sensors – both in hospitals and at home. And then we’re starting to see trends coming in augmented reality, virtual reality, and mixed reality with heads-up displays that surgeons are using.
And all of that really helps to expand the need for, you know, technology infrastructure throughout every kind of health care facility.
Ryan Schradin: We’ve all been to the doctor. We’ve all gone to the hospital. It’s normally pretty unfortunate if we have to, but you know, we’ve been there. They strike me as relatively utilitarian buildings that are made and built to be a little bit more focused on the patient experience and getting people the care that they need.
But I have to assume that, as some of these healthcare technologies are making their way into patient care, as we’re building these healthcare facilities, we need to take those things into account. So, have you started to see that the evolution of these new healthcare technologies is starting to impact the construction of new healthcare facilities?
Darren Smith: Well, I would love to say yes. But, in recent hospital construction projects that we’ve been involved in, there has been really very little forward-thinking design put into the infrastructure and systems designs. The designs seem to be very similar to what was being built 10 to 20 years ago, with just basic cabling, and infrastructure put in place.
Some of the benefits of the new high-tech solutions really could be universal, to both providers and patients. And, literally, by just doing a little bit of additional planning for cabling and infrastructure for future deployments, it would make it so much easier to expand services in the future and actually could even make it easier to retrofit just by planning better conduit layouts and stuff like that.
So, we’re not seeing a lot of that happening yet, but we’re hoping with new technology – as it comes out – it’ll make it easier to do that.
Ryan Schradin: So, if they’re not planning and putting these things in during the construction phase, that tells me that probably – in the near future – they’re going to have to go back and retrofit some of these healthcare facilities, hospitals, etc, with the cabling and infrastructure that they need.
So, as the need for conductivity increases – as the adoption of these new technologies – increases in the healthcare industry, what does that do for their facilities in the future? Can you go back and easily retrofit a building like this to embrace those new technologies? Or is it a process that’s really disruptive to the operations? Is this something that can be done? Or are they kind of shooting themselves in the foot?
Darren Smith: Well, it does really depend on the facility, itself, and how it’s built, to begin with. The older the building, probably the harder it is to retrofit. Newer buildings should theoretically be a little bit easier.
Really, the goal in infrastructure design is to take a logical look at the future technologies, as you’re building the building or before you build the building, and come up with good ways to be able to either plan for the technology or plan for retrofits in the future. You think about how hard it is to pull speaker wires or add network jacks in your house. You’ve got to break open walls, drill holes in floors and ceilings, and run wires in crazy places to be able to get it done. It can be that extreme in healthcare facilities.
Most of the technology advancements that we have going on right now really depend on having strong and reliable infrastructure – such as fiber networks – running everywhere. High bandwidth, wireless access points, 10G CAT cabling to the locations. All of this really can be retrofitted outside of major construction projects.
And the advent of new technologies – like fiber-to-edge devices, where you can remotely locate network switches anywhere in the entire building with fiber-connected between them – are really going to revolutionize the industry as far as remodeling for IT technology specifically. Those are the kinds of things that we look for when we go into facilities that we’re looking at doing a retrofit or an upgrade in. We look for the cleanest, best, easiest pathway to get services and systems where they need to be, rather than focusing on the gigantic IDF or MDF head-in rooms that we’ve had before.
So, it’s possible to do retrofits. It’s a little bit dicey at times. But it definitely is possible.
Ryan Schradin: So, it sounds like retrofits are possible, but if you can plan in advance and build and construct with that in mind, that’s preferred. And that’s probably tough for healthcare organizations, right? They’re focused on care for the patient. And they’re probably focusing a little bit less on IT and technology.
But I know E2 Optics, your company is a technology integrator, and you guys work with a lot of healthcare organizations. So, I would assume that a company like E2 Optics can help them think about those things. So, why would you say it’s important for a healthcare organization, a hospital, or a doctor’s office to work with an integrator on projects like this? And what can you guys bring to the table to help them as they plan?
Darren Smith: Well, health care is their expertise, obviously, and technology is ours. I wouldn’t ask anybody that works for me for medical advice. And I think that’s probably a wise choice. Healthcare organizations focus on what they do best, obviously, treating patients and curing diseases. And we focus on the technology deployment – future-proofing and looking at infrastructure, coming up with better ways, and keeping a very keen close eye on technology to know where it’s going.
Many hospitals have their own IT and technology departments. Strong technology integrators can work with them directly and develop new and exciting standards that set the stage for years of advancements in technology improvements.
Ryan Schradin: If I took healthcare advice from the people that work with me, I’d probably wind up in the hospital.
Darren Smith: Yeah, me too, probably.
Ryan Schradin: So, it sounds like technology integrators are important and that they can help these organizations plan for the future. But, you know, there are a lot of technology integrators out there.
If you had to give advice to a healthcare organization, what they should be looking for in a technology integrator? What considerations would you give them when trying to choose an integrator?
Darren Smith: Integrators play a very key role, in my opinion. There are a couple of ways to go about projects like this one, from a consulting approach. You can hire a consultant that does system design on the front side and passes it off to integrators.
Being a true technology integrator, especially where E2 Optics is concerned, embedded in our DNA are technology advancements. I mean, that’s just who we are. We specialize in forward design thinking and logical reasoning. And it benefits our clients globally.
True technology integrators bring the best of consulting, product development, systems engineering, and systems integration with them on every project. Everybody really should be looking for companies that are engineering-centric, and also that have strong core values and great culture that just makes for a really good company, and a well-trusted partner.
As you know, as trusted professionals in the industry, we have to be far more than just an integrator. We need to bring a high level of design ability, best-of-breed engineering expertise, and all of the divisions – everything low voltage from soup to nuts. And we need to have the highest performing project management skills on the planet, and the best field teams in the world.
And then we also have to have the best product to support. Without the best product on the market, we’re really – like you said before – shooting ourselves in the foot. Installing inferior products or designing inferior products is a quick way to make a project turn sour.
If you meld all of those skills and abilities within a company into a cohesive and well-planned package, you can come up with a solution that benefits the clients and their patients. And it eliminates the need for constant and extensive upgrades to infrastructure.
Ryan Schradin: You said two words there that I think really stood out to me and that is “trusted” and “partner.” Healthcare organizations should be looking for someone – if I boiled all that down – looking for someone who brings a lot of skills and knowledge to the table, but also kind of looks at them as more of a partner and less than as a customer. And that really, to me, speaks volumes as far as what we should be looking for. We’re not just customers to you. We’re a partner of yours, and you’re helping us get to where we need to go.
Darren Smith: Right. And it’s really important that the integrator – the technology integrator that you’re working with – has to understand the end goal of the project. They have to have vision and design thinking as assets within their arsenal. And possibly the most important is the ability to listen to what the client’s needs are and adapt while offering creative advice. You know, that’s probably the key to success in almost any business.
Ryan Schradin: You’ve been listening to the latest installment of the Government Technology Insider Podcast, where we’ve been speaking with Darren Smith, the Senior Director of Operations for the AV/Security, and DAS/Wireless specialty divisions at E2 Optics. And we’ve been talking about digital transformation that’s underway in the healthcare industry.
Darren, it’s been great having you on the show has been really enlightening. Thanks so much for joining us.
Darren Smith: Thanks, Ryan. I appreciate you including E2 Optics and myself in this podcast, and I look forward to future topics and discussions.
Ryan Schradin: Yeah, well, we’ll have to figure out an excuse to get you back on here again. But I do want to thank someone else…and that’s our listeners.
Thank you, guys, for tuning in for this discussion. I encourage you all to check out Government Technology Insider online. You can find us at www.governmenttechnologyinsider.com. It’s a tough one. Go there and you’ll find even more content like this.