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What does a smart hospital of the future look like?

Houston Methodist is betting big on the combination of automation technologies and person-centered strategies to create the smartest hospital yet.
By admin
Mar 17, 2022, 7:00 AM

In 2021, Houston Methodist announced it would be building the 9th hospital in its health system.  The Cyprus-area campus aims to be a digitally native facility with technology baked in from the ground up. Within the next three years, the site will open with 400 beds and a myriad of cutting-edge technologies.

Automation tools, self-service applications, and predictive analytics will create a portal to the new “phygital” world, said President and CEO Marc L. Boom, where physical services and digital care combine to create better experiences for patients, caregivers, and staff members.

“The smart hospital is all about people, from patients and their families to the people who work there,” said Marc L. Boom, MD, President and CEO of Houston Methodist. “We have two goals: first, to obsessively focus on the customer and their journey; and second, to make the lives of our staff members easier.”

“However, we don’t believe you can automate everything in a people-centered business, like healthcare. We want to use technology to free up our people so they can spend time doing things that only humans can do, such as praying with a patient before surgery or patiently and kindly walking with someone along their healthcare journey. Healing will always be human, and we must celebrate that.”

In a presentation this week at ViVE 2022 in Miami Beach, Boom was joined by Roberta Schwartz, EVP and CIO, and Michelle Standbury, VP of IT Applications and Innovation, to share Methodist’s recipe for the smart hospital of the future.

Automated customer service and digital check-in

From appointment scheduling to filling out intake forms, natural language phone bots and automated text messaging are quickly replacing tiered menus requiring customers to punch the keypad.  

“Patients want a predictable, seamless experience – and they want it fast,” said Stanbury. “They want you to remember them so they don’t have to fill in the same things over and over again.  Bots and text messages create a low friction environment. They will change the expectations of what administrative tasks can look like.”

Ambient voice-activated technologies

“We are bullish on the potential for ambient technologies for clinical documentation,” said Schwartz. “We don’t want to be in the business of reducing clicks. We want to eliminate them.”

Houston Methodist already has ambient voice technologies in three of its operating rooms and several physician clinics. By the time the Cyprus hospital is built, Schwartz believes these tools will be even more widely available.

Predictive artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence has been gaining traction for several years now, but there are still countless opportunities to use AI for patient care and operational tasks.

“The future is being able to tell someone what will happen, not what is happening or what already happened,” sad Schwartz. “We plan to build command centers to transform into a proactive AI hospital so we can stay ahead of rising risks.”

Remote patient monitoring and virtual care

“Virtual care lets us intervene earlier and provide the right services when and where they’re needed,” said Stanbury. “In the hospital, concepts like the virtual ICU can provide excellent care while helping providers maximize their clinical resources.”

Patients can benefit from remote patient monitoring (RPM) at home, as well, to manage their daily health and potentially improve outcomes.

“Make no mistake, we believe the hospital will continue to be at the center of the care experience. But every experience has a before and after,” said Schwartz. “Virtual care can coordinate and streamline the patient journey from the home to the hospital and back again.”

The next-generation smart hospital will leverage these and other digital tools to improve consumer experiences, forge stronger patient-provider relationships, and make it easier for providers to deliver high-quality care and better outcomes.

Read more of our ViVE event coverage: 


Jennifer Bresnick is a journalist and freelance content creator with a decade of experience in the health IT industry.  Her work has focused on leveraging innovative technology tools to create value, improve health equity, and achieve the promises of the learning health system.

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