IBM Pulse2012: Smarter Hospitals

Turning a hospital into a smarter building employs many of the same strategies as buildings in other industries, but hospitals have some unique infrastructure challenges and the results can have a large impact not only on building costs, but better patient health and experience.

By 2025, buildings will be the number one consumer of energy, and hospitals consume twice the energy of traditional buildings, says Derek Botti, IBM. Healthcare organizations spend $8.8 billion on energy each year to meet patient needs. Botti says that making hospitals smarter has resulted in up to a 40 percent reduction in energy usage and 10-30 percent maintenance cost savings. Every dollar saved on energy has the equivalent impact on the operating margin as increasing revenues by $20, and on average, employee productivity rose up to 18 percent. Sixty-five percent of stakeholders were willing to help make their workplace more environmentally responsible.

Smarter hospitals:

  • Are more cost-effective by reducing energy and operating costs
  • Use active and designed-in techniques to achieve efficiency and environmental responsibility
  • Have the ability to respond to the patients as well as the environment
  • Maintain a safer and more secure clinical setting and workplace
  • Communicate in real-time to supporting infrastructure
  • Leverage real-time communication to improve clinical outcomes

“Smarter hospitals are purpose-built, with well-managed and integrated physical and digital infrastructures that provide optimal occupancy and clinical services in a reliable, cost-effective, and sustainable manner,” says Botti.

Hospitals not only need to ensure a clean, safe workplace for its employees, but a better patient experience. Better infrastructure and asset management can improve patient care and safety. IBM and partner RFCode have implemented an asset management system using RF tags that addresses both patient care and cost savings.

  • A patient arrives at the Emergency room, registers and receives a sensor tag.
  • When the patient is seen by hospital staff, a “patient seen” record is automatically created in the system.
  • A nurse on the admitting floor quickly identifies and locates the equipment needed for this patient.
  • The nurse replaces an IV pump when it is indicated that it needs maintenance.
  • When the patient needs surgery, operating and clinical procedure suite temperature and pressure are monitored to trigger maintenance and rescheduling if it moves out of safe range.
  • Dialysis machine water consumption is monitored to proactively respond to maintenance requests, driving increased utilization and clinical efficacy.
  • Blood bank and pharmacy temperatures are monitored. When a sensor detects an abnormal reading, it creates a maintenance work order.
  • After care, the patient wanders off the floor. The hospital staff is notified and locates the patient.
  • When the patient is discharged, sensors automatically log patient and hospital personnel entering and exiting the facility or “zoned” areas.

Bon Secours Hospital


  • Critical assets that often move are hard to find
  • Shared assets are often “horded” because they are hard to find, which leads to overstocking
  • Average of 30 minutes to find an asset
  • Average of 300-400 calls to locate equipment
  • Spent an average of $4M per year for third-party asset management service


  • Deploys asset tags on all equipment (12,000 active tags, 440 active readers, 750 room locators)
  • First year saw $1M in net “hard dollar” savings – a total of $5M since inception
  • 80 percent savings due to equipment reduction (ex. 30 percent reduction in IV pumps)
  • Eliminated searching for equipment
  • Reduced OR prep time from 45 minutes to 20 minutes

image: Julen via Flickr cc (some rights reserved)

Andrea Newell has more than ten years of experience designing, developing and writing ERP e-learning materials for large corporations in several industries. She was a consultant for PricewaterhouseCoopers and a contract consultant for companies like IBM, BP, Marathon Oil, Pfizer, and Steelcase, among others. She is a writer and former editor at TriplePundit and a social media blog fellow at The Story of Stuff Project. She has contributed to In Good Company (Vault's CSR blog), Evolved Employer, The Glass Hammer, EcoLocalizer and CSRwire. She is a volunteer at the West Michigan Environmental Action Council and lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan. You can reach her at and @anewell3p on Twitter.

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