What Does North America's First All-Digital Hospital Mean For The Patient Experience?

It seems that outlook couldn’t be brighter for the tech-driven transformation of healthcare facilities in Canada. Humber River Hospital, located in Toronto, has become North America's first all-digital hospital. What can patients expect from the all-digital hospital experience?

It doesn't feel like a hospital,” said Dr. Rueben Devlin, Humber River's CEO

Upon entering Humber River’s corridors, one finds robots sorting medication and automated guided vehicles delivering lunch trays. Pneumatic tubes carry blood samples to patients, from patient floors to the laboratories: all delivered by machines.

A small team of information technology specialists and engineers hover over video monitors and computer screens watching for any hiccups from Humber River's control tower. Considering all the groundbreaking technological advancements undergone to create the first closed-loop telemedicine facility, and the cost to adequately train staff on these advancements, it stands to question how cost trickles down to the patient. What is the cost of admission into this hospital wonderland?

The haves are the people who have the stomach to innovate,” said Richard Cramer, a principal in the healthcare advisory practice of consulting firm EY. “The have-nots are the ones who are more risk-averse. It's not in their character to want to be the first.

Funding for these full-scale technological facelifts is challenging, as upgrades must be fully justified as to how they improve the patient experience. Oftentimes falling short of justification has left many hospitals adding on piece by piece, making Humber River's tranformation that much more impressive.

The easiest upgrades to justify are the ones behind the scenes, which can have immediate and measurable cost savings and patient-safety benefits. As a result, most hospitals are approaching their tech-overhauls one step at a time, ensuring the commodification of healthcare doesn’t keep the “have-nots” left out in the cold. Hospitals are moving fastest on other patient experience technology upgrades, such as automated pharmacies, laboratories and supply chains, rather than remote patient monitoring and virtual care.

They're not talking about it in relationship terms but operational terms,” said Munzoor Shaikh, a director in the healthcare practice of consulting firm West Monroe Partners. “Getting truly digital means not just having robots, but truly engaging patients outside your four walls. When we say digital, we mean understanding the customer in a digital world. But I don't see that playing out yet.”

Nobody ever said stepping into the future would be easy. But ready or not, better health outcomes here we come!