Data-driven decision-making in Smart Hospitals

modern hospital with employees

Cato Heimvik, IT Director of Stavanger University Hospital, took the stage at Quuppa Partner Event and talked about the future of data-driven decision-making in healthcare and smart hospitals. Here are Cato’s insights from his speech.

In the city of Stavanger, the new hospital building will be the largest land building project in Norway to date, with 120,000 square meters built in just stage one. This enormous future hospital complex will be something that has not been seen before in Norway, not just in size, but also in the use of technology as well. From the very beginning, the new Stavanger University Hospital project has utilized the latest digital solutions, like 3D mapping of the building during construction.

The hospital’s emergency center will be larger and much more complex than today.  Cato Heimvik, head of IT is in charge of finding out and planning what different kinds of data can be collected in the hospital, and what kind of value that data can bring.

IoT in healthcare: a threat or an opportunity?

“When I started at the hospital, I had a meeting with my director, and we talked about IoT and technology. I said, ‘Should I talk us out of this problem or should we talk ourselves into this opportunity?’ and her answer was ‘Yeah, we should talk ourselves into this area, I believe that would solve lots of our problems in the future.’”

According to Cato, talking yourself out of trying something new is much easier. Especially with new, untested technologies can be a big hassle to try and sell inside any organization, not just in the healthcare sector.

The first step in developing an idea is to do research and find out as much as you can about the industry. This is what Cato did.

Healthcare and the fourth industrial revolution – focus is important

One undisputed fact of the developed world is that our population is getting older and healthcare costs are on the rise.

According the Cato, we are often aware of the possibilities and different kinds of digital solutions that are out there. But when figuring out what IoT would mean for Stavanger Hospital, Cato listed the following features:

  • 1. Tracking assets
  • 2. Condition monitoring
  • 3. Security monitoring

With these three easy-to-understand categories it was much simpler for Cato to continue his project.

What challenges does IoT have regarding healthcare?

Challenges of IoT in healthcare include security concerns, connectivity issues, and technology evolution. As Cato states, there’s no standard for IoT devices on a global level. Therefore, the IT department of any organization can’t say that they will invest in just one solution provider and IoT standard. According to Cato, using the wrong technology in the wrong use case would ruin the benefits that you could have gotten. Instead, Cato’s approach is to make the best of the IoT standards we have, look at each use case separately, and determine which will work best.

Government organizations might be known for having a lot of bureaucracy, but according to Cato that does not necessarily mean a lack of efficiency. On the contrary, Cato says that at Stavanger the need to document everything increases the efficiency of executing projects. What Cato names as a possible challenge is getting and measuring the effects afterward. The healthcare sector is nearly always lacking resources, and not many people have the time to add to their workload to follow and document the aftermath of different projects.

In the case of Stavanger University Hospital, Cato says that while he has the budget to bring IoT to the hospital, he has only three people in his IT department. The entire process needs to be extremely agile with quick retrieval of information so that the insights can be turned into useful actions swiftly.

In this kind of innovative work, having a clear purpose, mission, and fixed goals from the start is crucial. These, along with a consistent focus on learning opportunities and accumulating experiences, are more important than focusing solely on technology.

Organizational culture at the heart of success

In any organization, and especially in the healthcare sector, no big change happens in a silo. To succeed, the technology, the processes, and the people need to all work seamlessly and when one is changed, the others need to adjust. For these adjustments to happen seamlessly, the organization’s culture is a big factor. Any change to the way people work also requires an organizational change.

At Stavanger, the manager of organization development was heavily involved in the IoT project so that the processes would change accordingly and that the people would start using the new technologies.

The effects of the IoT project at Stavanger were listed as follows:

  • increase in patient safety
  • increase in productivity
  • increased utilization of equipment (resulting in needing less equipment)
  • reduced equipment loss
  • more efficient use of space
  • more optimal area maintenance

IoT can be complex

To step into the world of IoT is no easy task. To understand all the different components of the IoT value chain, one needs to understand a lot from IoT hardware to the end-user experience.

Many IoT solutions involve several providers. The IoT hardware provider, connectivity provider, and service provider can all be different, and if it’s up to the IT to control and know everything about each step, the task can be too much to handle. In addition to that, the IT department often needs to advance the solution they want inside the company.

It was at this stage that Cato met Gunnar Hansen from Haltian at Helse Campus Stavanger, who was driving forward the Haltian Empathic Building hospital solution. From the very start, Gunnar promised to solve Cato’s problem of too many providers and too much hassle with IoT.

Do you have a digital twin of your building?

Just a couple of weeks after meeting Gunnar, Cato had a digital twin of their building to show to his management team.

An easy use case to begin testing the solution and the digital twin was smart cleaning. Cato’s team took a not-often-used area in the hospital and began to measure its utilization and the fill rates of paper dispensers. After a while of catering data, they were able to start making data-driven decisions on when and what areas to clean. This could have saved a great amount of time and ensured the cleanliness of the area. The area was also sensorized with environment sensors to measure the temperature, which can lessen the need for the environment quality staff to physically visit the area to measure the temperatures.

The results of the smart cleaning pilot were very good, and the most important result was the confidence build-up towards the solution. The next step was the Smart Patient Room.

Haltian Empathic Building digital twin on a screen in a meeting room

Building of trust

After the cleaning pilot, it was time to start measuring utilization, work tasks, and equipment needs.  Today’s rooms needed to be reduced to fewer rooms in the new hospital and the challenge was to minimize space in a way that would not disrupt to operation of the hospital.

Buildings are the most expensive thing we have apart from resources. In Norway, the new hospital trend is so-called single-bed hospitals, where the target is that each patient has a private room. This puts more pressure on designing new hospitals regarding space. So, using buildings correctly concerning their purpose and learning from their use can save millions.

At Stavanger, they wanted to implement as many changes as possible in the old building first, to test how spaces were used and if space reduction would work.

Haltian occupancy sensors were installed in the rooms, showing if the room was occupied in the digital twin. “Then we created a digital twin of the new hospital and created corresponding rooms for the existing rooms we were monitoring”. In this test, there were, for example, two rooms from the old hospital that corresponded to one room in the new building. From the live data, they could see if the two rooms were used in the old building. This would show as red in the new digital twin, meaning if the utilization is over 100 %, it’s a clash. The next step was to look at the timetable to avoid such clashes in space usage or the need to change the floor plan.  Cato says that they “tried to move into the new building before we moved in!” This simple solution was extremely valuable to the organization’s  project

How to get started with IoT

Cato highlights that at the end of the day, it is the user experience that matters in any solution: “The hardware is not important, the standard of connectivity is not important, the interface for the users that’s what’s important,” he says. According to Cato, it’s quite impossible to convince anyone that the solution is good and valuable without a good interface with which people can see for themselves, test things, and get used to the technology.

When it comes to getting started with IoT solutions, Cato encourages everyone to start somewhere and to keep the momentum up for people to start learning and taking on new technologies as that is the only way to get to examine the results and the strengths of the technologies chosen.

A final tip from Cato for anyone embarking on a smart hospital project is to go out there but don’t do it alone:  “You need a partner, Gunnar”.

It’s time to talk with Gunnar

If you’re interested in Haltian Smart Hospital Solution, contact Gunnar Hansen, our smart hospital guru at, or book a meeting here.