The words “smart hospital” seem to be making an appearance a lot more often. What exactly does the phrase mean? Is it defined by the type of medical equipment available in the hospital, or is it the technology integrated into the structure to enhance its function and performance? At the moment, it seems the phrase is broad enough to encompass most scenarios that involve some sort of technology.

The number of healthcare facilities that have incorporated smart technology has increased. From radio-frequency identification and real-time location services, to smart rooms and systems that monitor, control, and adapt for energy efficiency, there’s an abundance of developments being rolled out to the market.

The world of possibility and innovation has grown by leaps and bounds in the medical industry as well as in the design and construction sector. With a build timeline that spans years, certain processes and products are becoming passé before the hospital is even completed. If owners want to keep up with the very latest in technology that will benefit patients and save costs, that can create a nightmare for architects and construction managers as change orders start to pile up in order to accommodate up-to-the-minute trends. However, if there are development that can save lives, the extra effort is worth it, especially with a healthcare landscape that will change after reform.

Healthcare facilities are under pressure from all sides to transform themselves into more ecologically friendly buildings. In the same vein, patients and employees are more tech savvy and certainly demand the latest thing on the market that will add to quality of care and/or reduce time spent in the hospital.

Granted, incorporating all the very latest tech ideas can be an expensive undertaking that not all facilities can afford or even need right away (things like automated guided vehicles, for example). But there are innovative ideas out there that can help a cash-strapped hospital achieve better quality care, both through the design of the physical space and through technological advances in medical equipment.

The infrastructure of the smart hospital, from both a physical and technological standpoint, must be as flexible as possible to allow for the rapidly changing future.