Big Data Revolutionizes Healthcare Construction

By Michael Matthews and Matthias Ebinger

The Internet of Things (IoT) produces intelligence we can act on. With the ability to streamline everyday processes, IoT has the potential to transform the way we design, commission, fund, and build projects across all sectors. When it comes to major capital projects for healthcare, however, there are additional considerations to take into account – particularly how regulatory requirements from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and The Joint Commission affect both design and construction methods. By leveraging IoT, machine learning, and AI, we can meet these requirements while reducing costs, increasing operating efficiencies, ensuring compliance, and improving the patient experience.

The regulatory requirements in healthcare have a major cost and schedule impact on new construction as well as ongoing operating and maintenance cost over the life of the asset (whether that be a medical office building, operating theatre, etc.). Similar to the safety requirements for heavy industrial or manufacturing projects, healthcare projects have extensive requirements for patient safety that impact everything from HVAC and air handling to plumbing and electrical layout. This makes healthcare projects the most complex in the building sector.

First things first: data and process standardization

Before we’re able to truly embrace emerging technologies like IoT, AI or machine learning, it’s essential that data and process standardization first be in place. These requirements, which will manage assets over their entire life cycle, must be lean and efficient for a hospital’s internal facilities management resources to maintain them on a sustained basis. Once established, data and process standardizations enable the exploration and integration of emerging technologies.

Embracing IoT, AI and machine learning

Building Management Systems (BMS) generate a huge amount of consistent data that, oftentimes, is unable to be processed by those in facilities management. Instead, facilities teams can become overwhelmed and, in some cases, suffer from alarm fatigue. Once the BMS data is integrated with an owner’s data strategy, however, it can provide enormous benefits for owners to operate more efficiently.

For example, rather than replace filters on a scheduled basis, hospitals can use BMS data to replace filters when they are clogged (i.e. more frequently in environments with dusty air, and less frequently in environments with clean air). Algorithms also now exist to predict hot/cold calls with over 90 percent accuracy. The facilities team receives an alert if there is any deviation from the predicted pattern, allowing them to precisely pinpoint where abnormal variances occur that need attention.

Hospitals using data standardization can leverage information across functional units. As the space classifies rooms by room type, the system automatically informs the engineering and life safety teams about changes and triggers them to adjust inspection, testing and maintenance processes accordingly.

Many challenges come in the hand-offs between functions throughout the asset’s life cycle – as we move from the design and construction phase to operations and maintenance. This is because projects have historically been function-centric, not data-centric. Beginning with the creation of a “digital twin” (a virtual model) of the asset during design, data can now be analyzed and monitored to prevent problems before they arise, avoid downtime, and even plan for future needs.

Maximizing return with emerging technology

In recent years, the downward cost pressure on the healthcare industry has dramatically increased focus on maximizing the return on capital employed. Getting the most value possible out of a newly built asset is more important now than ever before.

Today, there is an emphasis on differentiating and segmenting services – from critical care in a hospital to outpatient procedures in a medical office building to a minor emergency clinic in a strip center. Different services carry different asset requirements and associated costs. The goal is to align an investment with the market served to deliver what is needed at the lowest cost. This makes portfolio planning and the selection and funding of the “right” capital projects much more critical than other sectors.

Looking ahead

McKinsey predicts IoT will have $11 trillion in economic impact by 2025. In construction, a technologically savvy industry translates into more projects in shorter durations as well as faster approvals and authorizations. IoT is capable of breaking down silos, increasing efficiencies, and providing valuable insights in real time.

Rather than individuals, teams, and even entire companies holding on to data in silos, different data sources can now be connected with emerging technologies. Using these tools throughout the full lifecycle of an asset can eliminate artificial barriers created in a function-centric model and democratize the data for all stakeholders involved. By allowing data and technology to deliver on its promise, we will create a better way to build.

About the Authors

As Vice President of Strategy & Consulting at Enstoa, Michael Matthews has over 25 years of experience managing large capital projects and portfolios in North America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia Pacific. He specializes in strategic business consulting and smart technology solutions that enable leading organizations, worldwide, to spend more strategically on improving operations. For more information, visit www.enstoa.com.

Director of Digital Solutions at Enstoa, Matthias Ebinger, advises healthcare systems to optimize and digitize facilities and real estate processes. He previously led the process engineering team within the FM department of one of the country’s largest hospital systems and is an assistant visiting professor in the Facilities Management M.S. Program at Pratt Institute. For more information, visit http://www.enstoa.com.

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