Inside North America’s first all-digital hospital

The digital experience at Humber River Hospital in northwest Toronto begins the moment patients arrive. The sleek, square building feels like a small airport, with each registration area designated with a letter. Before arriving, patients look online to find out their check-in zone.

Humber River is North America’s first all-digital hospital. Inside its corridors, there are robots sorting medication. Automated guided vehicles deliver lunch trays. Machines deliver the pneumatic tubes that carry blood samples from patient floors to the laboratory.

Patients and staff wear real-time locating devices. For staff, the technology eliminates the need for overhead paging systems and allows the closest available person to respond to an issue. Family members can track loved ones as they move from surgery to recovery.

In a central dispatch area—the equivalent of Humber River’s control tower—a small team of information technology specialists and engineers hover over video monitors and computer screens watching for any hiccups.

Healthcare delivery is in the midst of a huge transformation—from facility design and staff and clinician training to bedside monitoring. But it’s not just automation and information flow inside the hospital. The changes are also moving into patient homes, which are becoming the equivalent of satellite care units where nurses can monitor people around the clock.

At Humber River, the all-digital hospital has moved well beyond electronic health records or telemedicine to create a seamless, paperless, connected experience for patients, staff and clinicians. “It doesn’t feel like a hospital,” said Dr. Rueben Devlin, Humber River’s CEO. “In the first six months, we’ve had no trouble attracting patients.”

Humber River opened its new hospital in October, and its full-scale digital transformation is far ahead of other acute-care hospitals. While many hospitals have been eager to adopt and invest in new technologies, they’re still moving forward piece by piece.

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