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Hospitals are changing, they are becoming digital.  Workflows and processes are evolving to align to the new digital technology that is becoming commonplace today.  The all digital hospital is now a reality.

Last October, Toronto became the home of North America’s first “fully digital” medical facility with the opening of the new Humber River Hospital.  Reuben Devlin, the president and CEO of Humber River Regional, described the new hospital as “lean, green, and digital.”  The facility, he said, will focus on “using the latest technology” to make treatment for efficient and effective.

The hospital features everything from automated kiosks where patients can enter their information to robotic arms that administer medication.  The facility also uses a digital management system that counts, organizes, and checks the expiration dates of all the drugs at the hospital to make sure patients aren’t getting the wrong treatment. (1)

Technology will not replace people in the new hospital – it will be used to allow staff’s time to be dedicated to patient care. By utilizing the latest technology and advanced architectural designs, healthcare teams can drastically cut down on the time spent waiting for test results, transferring patient files between departments, and walking between units. This time can now be spent with those who need it most – the patients.

Great care will be taken to ensure that all hospital staff is trained in using the new technology and to ensure that these advancements are helping them to deliver better care – removing many of the time-consuming tasks they do on a daily basis (i.e. weighing patients, delivering medications, etc.).

The facility will be larger than HRH’s current facilities to accommodate more patients, meaning that the overall staff numbers increase with the opening of the new hospital. (2)

Next Generation Integration of Communications in Hospitals

But what is possible for the vision of a hospital of the future?  What sort of applications would operate on the internal networks?  The network health traffic would be of high volume,  While the smarter building network traffic would be simplistic in comparison.  If we consider the Internet of Things pertaining to the smarter building concepts, we could foresee the desire to manage HVAC, lighting, security, access control, and standard building aspects.

A digital hospital could collect revenue from new internal smarter building solutions like television, PPV, on-demand movies, video games, etc.

A content delivery network could be used to delivery patient education, training, patient discharge videos, etc.  which would lessen workload on staff by delivering these packaged and repeated messages directly to patients.

The intercom could be tied in to security devices like cameras which would be useful too.  As well as building WiFi for practitioner integration of devices like tablets, smart phones, and computers.

In addition, we might wish to use RFID to locate assets like wheel chairs, crash carts, machines, instruments, and other devices.  We might like to make strong use of video and video analytics for access control, patient tracking, facial recognition, etc.

One aspect that might be interesting would be end to end digital integration of the hospital emergency code system:

  • Code Black: Bomb Threat/Suspicious Object
  • Code Blue: Cardiac Arrest/Medical Emergency – Adult
  • Code Brown: In-facility Hazardous Spill
  • Code Green: Evacuation (Precautionary)
  •  Code Green STAT: Evacuation (Crisis)
  • Code Grey: Infrastructure Loss or Failure
  •  Code Grey Button-down: External Air Exclusion
  • Code Orange: Disaster
  • Code Orange CBRN: CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear) Disaster
  • Code Pink: Cardiac Arrest/Medical Emergency – Infant/Child
  • Code Purple: Hostage Taking
  • Code Red: Fire
  • Code White: Violent/Behavioural Situation
  • Code Yellow: Missing Person
  • Code Amber: Missing Child/Child Abduction

For the medical traffic, you might consider;

  • Electronic rounds for a teaching hospital
  • Scans (ultrasounds, x-rays, MRI, CAT scans, etc.)
  • Patient records
  • Prescriptions
  • Electronic discharge

Unlike some of the newer hospital builds as green field developments, retrofitting existing hospital would be much more difficult and technically challenging to do as they remain operational and have legacy building issues that need to be addressed for running cables in a working facility.

Some early developments can be seen in this IBM video related to neonatal care and the integration of complex machines into a holistic solution tied to a comprehensive analytic engine supported by a comparative database to predict trends, patterns, outcomes, and diagnoses.

The Hospital for Sick Children – Neonatal eBaby Project Link to YouTube Video


The changes to the medical industry are dramatic and the beneficiary is the patient.  There will be issues that will need to be addressed over time, but this is a smarter strategy to better healthcare for all.


About the Author:

Michael Martin has more than 35 years of experience in broadband networks, optical fibre, wireless and digital communications technologies. He is a Senior Executive Consultant with IBM Canada’s GTS Network Services Group. Over the past 11 years with IBM, he has worked in the GBS Global Center of Competency for Energy and Utilities and the GTS Global Center of Excellence for Energy and Utilities. He was previously a founding partner and President of MICAN Communications and before that was President of Comlink Systems Limited and Ensat Broadcast Services, Inc., both divisions of Cygnal Technologies Corporation (CYN:TSX). Martin currently serves on the Board of Directors for TeraGo Inc (TGO:TSX) and previously served on the Board of Directors for Avante Logixx Inc. (XX:TSX.V).  He served on the Board of Governors of the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) and on the Board of Advisors of four different Colleges in Ontario as well as for 16 years on the Board of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE), Toronto Section.  He holds three Masters level degrees, in business (MBA), communication (MA), and education (MEd). As well, he has diplomas and certifications in business, computer programming, internetworking, project management, media, photography, and communication technology.



(1.)  Balca, D. (2015). First ‘fully-digital’ hospital in North America to open in Toronto. CTV Toronto. Retrieved on January 25, 2016 from

(2.) FAQ. (2016). Humber River Hospital Foundation. Retrieved on January 25, 2016 from

(3.) OpenPR. (2009). Apollo-Bramwell to become the first digital hospital in Indian Ocean region. British American Investment.  Retrieved on January 25, 2016 from

(4.) Hatching, Matching, and Dispatching. (2005). The article title is a mash-up from a CBC Television Series.  Rink Rat Productions. Retrieved on January 25, 2016 from