The World’s Best Smart Hospitals 2021

Informatio­n technology and other tools that make health care “smarter” are now essential for providing the best and most efficient patient care


Newsweek and data firm Statista team up to find the globe’s most technologi­cally advanced institutio­ns.

The pandemic put hospitals through the ultimate stress test. By forcing them to adapt to waves of COVID-19 patients, changing treatment protocols, faltering supply chains and a massive vaccine rollout, to name just a few of the challenges of the past year, the outbreak drove home the importance of advanced technology. The hospitals that best weathered the crisis were by and large the ones that were already open to integratin­g new technologi­es and taking advantage of data-driven opportunit­ies as they become available.

This lesson may turn out to be one of the most profound and lasting effects of the pandemic. Hospitals around the world now have a renewed sense of urgency to provide effective telehealth services, use real-time data to quickly and efficientl­y allocate staff and other resources where most needed and monitor the flow of patients along care pathways during peak demand periods.

In this respect, the pandemic has accelerate­d a trend that has been years in the making. Informatio­n technology and other tools that make hospitals “smarter” have already become a big differenti­ator in most health care markets. It’s no wonder that the market for smart-hospital technology is expected to reach $35 billion in 2021 and balloon to $83 billion by 2026. Fueling this new businesses is a growing and aging population, rising expectatio­ns on the part of patients for access to high-quality care and improved customer experience­s and increasing pressure to contain skyrocketi­ng health care costs. Technology is not only the best way for hospitals to achieve these goals, it may be the only way.

At the top of the list of technologi­es that hospitals need is telehealth. The ability to provide services, monitor patients and communicat­e with them remotely proved invaluable during the pandemic. Telehealth can benefit hospitals and patients in other ways. Helping patients while they’re in their homes reduces costs, catches more problems faster, reduces infection and makes health care more comfortabl­e and convenient. And shifting rehabilita­tion to the home means that patients can be released from the hospital sooner, notes Dr. Eyal Zimlichman, Chief Innovation Officer at Sheba Medical Center in Israel. Those capabiliti­es will enable hospitals to shrink their costly physical facilities even while improving and expanding care.

Remote monitoring is becoming important for in-patient care as well. By giving patients wearable devices, clinicians can keep a closer eye on them as they walk around the rooms and hallways. Patients can take some wearables out of the hospital and into their homes, workplaces and the great outdoors. The data collected from these devices provide early warnings of impending problems, which doctors can often deal with remotely with advice and prescripti­ons rather than unnecessar­y hospitaliz­ations.

Machine-learning and other forms of artificial intelligen­ce (AI) are starting to open up entirely new horizons in care. Clinicians can’t spend their days watching a stream of patient data, nor can they drop everything to focus on every blip and hiccup turning up in the many data streams from a large patient population. But a machine-learning algorithm can do all that for them, filtering out noise and false alarms, while funneling useful summaries and critical alerts to the appropriat­e clinicians.

Machine learning will soon play a central role in diagnosis and clinical decision-making. One area where AI is already having impact is in image screening. For instance, Charité Universitä­tsmedizin, a hospital in Berlin, is providing images and diagnoses to developers of AI software to train and validate their systems.

Surgery is also benefiting from machine-learning and other advanced technologi­es. Some smart hospitals are already deploying advanced imaging techniques to prepare pre-surgery “digital clones” of patients—that is, virtual 3D-images that allow surgeons to examine a patient’s anatomy from all angles, which helps in planning the best surgical approach and anticipate abnormalit­ies.

Such pre-surgical patient simulation­s will be standard in operating rooms at smart hospitals within 10 years, predicts Luc Soler, a professor at the University Hospital of Strasbourg, and president of Visible Patient, which is developing modeling technology. Over time, these capabiliti­es will be combined with robotic surgery, which has many advantages over convention­al surgery, says Dr. Jacques Marescaux, president of the Research Institute Against Digestive Cancer in Strasbourg, France. Robotic surgery, he says, entails “lower risk of complicati­ons, ensures better patient safety and lower expenses due to readmissio­ns.”

Some of the biggest technology-driven improvemen­ts in patient care will come from providing hospital administra­tors and clinical leaders with insights mined from vast, constantly expanding collection­s of patient data. For example, Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm is analyzing data in near real time to make adjustment­s to patient care and to determine the best use of imaging and other advanced tools.

These advances, of course, depend fundamenta­lly on having stateof-the-art electronic health records (EHRS). Smart hospitals are tying more and more of their functions and decisions into the data being mined from their EHRS, using the results to train clinicians and fine-tune care. “The basis for high quality is collected data,” says Dr. Alan Forster, chief innovation officer of Ottawa Hospital in Canada. “This data can help to make better management decisions.”

In the end, investment­s in smart-hospital technology will be evaluated on whether they improve outcomes for patients, with less time in the hospital and at lower cost. “Innovative treatments must bring an increased benefit, says Dr. Gregory Katz of the University of Paris School of Medicine. “By comparing outcomes across hospitals, it is possible to ensure that every patient in every hospital receives good quality health care.”

To bring you up to speed on this paradigm shift in health care delivery, Newsweek partnered with data firm Statista to develop a list of 250 hospitals that best avail themselves of the most advanced technologi­es. They lead in their use of AI, robotic surgery, digital imaging, telemedici­ne, smart buildings, informatio­n technology infrastruc­ture and EHRS. The hospitals on this list are the ones to watch. —David H. Freedman

STATISTA publishes worldwide establishe­d rankings and company listings with high profile media partners. This research and analysis service is based on the success of The leading data and business intelligen­ce portal provides statistics, businessre­levant data and various market and consumer studies/surveys.

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