This week, Mackenzie Health’s CTO Felix Zhang discusses the future of smart hospitals and how IoT’s integration into hospitals creates a safer and more efficient solution for healthcare workers and patients. Smart hospitals utilize IoT and Real-Time Location Systems (RTLS) to track assets, patients, and staff with smart tags to generate greater operating efficiency. Felix shares insights he’s gained as the CTO of Mackenzie Health, where he led the design and implementation of all the IT and smart technology featured in Canada’s first smart hospital.

Felix also talks about some of his favorite solutions of IoT in hospitals and how they create a more satisfying patient experience at Cortellucci Vaughan Hospital. Opened in June of 2021, the hospital utilizes RTLS for asset tracking, safety, workflow and to create a safer environment. Felix also discusses the challenges he’s faced with integrating this new tech into healthcare.

Felix Zhang has over 25 years of experience in the IT sector, with the last 20 in healthcare. His background in computer sciences and extensive leadership experience has aided him in his current role with Mackenzie Health. He is responsible for all of the information technology infrastructure, applications, and integration at both Mackenzie Richmond Hill Hospital and Cortellucci Vaughan Hospital.

Interested in connecting with Felix Zhang? Reach out to him via email: feli[email protected]

About Mackenzie Health:

Mackenzie Health is a dynamic regional health care provider that includes the Mackenzie Richmond Hill Hospital and the Cortellucci Vaughan Hospital. In March 2017, the organization received its second consecutive award of Accreditation with Exemplary Standing from Accreditation Canada for its commitment to safety and quality patient care. This is the highest rating a Canadian health care provider can receive. Guided by a vision to create a world-class health experience, Mackenzie Health has an unrelenting focus on the patient and is dedicated to patient needs now and in the future.

When opening the Cortellucci Vaughan Hospital this past year, Mackenzie Health sought to further develop its vision and create the first smart hospital in Canada equipped with real-time location systems (RTLS). Due to its extensive health care experience, Mackenzie Health’s executive team selected CenTrak as their strategic partner for Cortellucci Vaughan Hospital’s RTLS, environmental monitoring solutions, and enterprise-wide IoHT to streamline operations and enhance patient care. Mackenzie Health’s CTO Felix Zhang will discuss the decision to create the country’s first smart hospital, the decision to partner with CenTrak, and why IoT and RTLS technologies are the future for healthcare facilities.

Key Questions and Topics from this Episode:

(01:07) Introduction to Felix Zhang

(01:53) Mackenzie Health Backstory

(03:07) What is a Smart Hospital

(04:24) IoT’s Fit into Hospitals

(05:45) Building the First Smart Hospital

(09:01) Smart Hospitals Interaction With Patients

(12:15) Challenges When Building Smart Hospitals

(13:42) Smart Hospital’s Adjustment to Pandemics

(15:39) Key Data Analyzed and Collected

(16:58) Future of Smart Hospitals

(19:35) Advice for Companies Getting into IoT


Transcript:

– [Announcer] You are listening to the IoT For All Media Network.

– [Ryan] Hello, everyone and welcome to another episode of the IoT For All Podcast. I’m your host, Ryan Chacon. and today’s guest is Felix Zhang the CTO of Mackenzie Health. Where he is responsible for all the information technology, infrastructure applications, and integration work for Mackenzie Health. He also led the design and implementation of all of the IT and smart technology, featured in Canada’s first smart hospital. So we’re gonna talk a lot about smart hospitals today. We’re gonna talk about RTLS, IoT in hospital and medical setting just in general, as well as what does the future look like for IoT, RTLS and other technologies in the healthcare space? Before we do that, if any of you out there are looking to enter the fast growing and profitable IoT market, but don’t know where to start, check out our sponsor Leverege. Leverege is IoT solutions development platform, provides everything you need to create turnkey IoT products that you can white label and resell under your own brand. To learn more, go to iotchangeseverything.com that’s iotchangeseverything.com. And without further ado, please enjoy this episode of the IoT For All Podcast. Welcome Felix to the IoT For All Podcast. Thanks for being here this week.

– [Felix] Oh, thank you.

– [Ryan] Yeah, it’s great to have you.

– [Felix] Thank you for having me.

– [Ryan] Absolutely, I’m very excited about this conversation. I’d love it if you could start off by just give me a quick introduction to our audience, talk a little bit more about your background experience, anything you think they’d find relevant and exciting to kinda hear about.

– [Felix] Yeah, absolutely. So my name is Felix Zhang, I’m the CTO for Mackenzie Health. Mackenzie Health is a two hospital health network just North of Toronto, in Ontario, Canada. And recently we opened a new Cortellucci Vaughan Hospital which is the first smart hospital in Canada. So my role is to manage the IT infrastructure applications, and also system integrations for the new hospital and also for our existing facility.

– [Ryan] Fantastic. That kinda actually answers one of my next questions, which was talking about being a CTO in the healthcare space. But I’d love it if you could just give a little more background on the company itself and kind of just anything you think would be relevant for our audience to learn a little bit more about the organization.

– [Felix] Yeah, absolutely. So Mackenzie Health is a regional healthcare provider for the Southwest of York Region, which is about 30 minutes North of Toronto. And we have two hospitals and recently we opened a new hospital, which has about 350 beds and that also has a capacity to expand it to 550.

– [Ryan] Okay.

– [Felix] That’s in the future And just recently, I think it was in June, 2021, we opened a new hospital and with a full integrated smart systems, inside of the facility to be able to provide better services for our patients and also provide a better experiences for our clinicians and physicians.

– [Ryan] That’s awesome. I love it if you, so I wanna get into talking more about the hospitals that you have the implementation of IoT, kind of why you got into that, but I wanna see if you could start off by just telling our audience in your own words, what exactly is a smart hospital?

– [Felix] It’s very good question. So we look at the smart hospital is to, started with a problem statement, how the technology can solve, some of the operational challenges and how we can use the technology to provide a better services for our patients. How can we use technology to make our clinicians life a little bit easier.

– [Ryan] Okay.

– [Felix] And so everything started with that problem statement and it’s about 10 years ago, once we started the planning for the new hospital, we look at it, how a future hospital could deliver like a safe, efficient, and also a high quality patient care with the use of technology. And the many of the new and emerging technology that has been widely used in different industries and also in our personal life, for example, we use iPhones, use mobile devices all the time, but at the time the health care is a little bit behind. And so we decided to enable, adapt, and also integrated them into a hospital setting. So with overall goal to improve the experience of care and for both our patients and also for our staff.

– [Ryan] So what is it about IoT technologies that have really made it fit so well in a hospital setting? And also what are IoT technologies enabling within hospitals now and what are they kind of basically enabling them to do that they weren’t able to do in the past?

– [Felix] Yeah, good question. So for example, the IoT, I mean, we can go in and look into the RTLS and we often refer it to a kind of indoor GPS system. It has all the sensors within the facility, be able to provide locating services for our, for example, asset management, we know where the beds are and where the IV pumps are, and also be able to provide locating services for our patients and for our staff. And if you look into that and it can drive a lot of workflows and to be able to provide a safer and more efficient environment for the patients and the clinicians, and I gave you a very simple example. The RTLS system has a security solutions attach with it. And at any location if the staff has an emergency, they can press a button or a badge and it will send alert to nearby nurses on their handheld devices.

– [Ryan] Okay.

– [Felix] So this is how it works in our facility.

– [Ryan] That’s fantastic. So you mentioned a second ago, when you all kind of venture down this path, you started with a problem statement. Can you kind of expand on that and talk to us a little bit more about the process you went through to build the first smart hospital for the country, kind of what the problem statement was that you all were focused on and then how you went through the process of figuring out which problems needed to be solved, how you’re gonna solve them, what companies you’re gonna work with, with technology you’re gonna use. In a simplest terms as possible, you don’t need to go obviously into crazy detail, but just kind of, walk me through that process and what that was like for you all to get to where you kind of are now.

– [Felix] Yeah, absolutely. So as we started the planning of the new facility, we started looking into different systems and RTLS was for example, one of them, but just use that as example.

– [Ryan] Right?

– [Felix] And so in order to make informed decision, we looked into the system and we started a piloting of them in our existing facility.

– [Ryan] Okay.

– [Felix] At a much smaller scale.

– [Ryan] Sure.

– [Felix] And we put the system in one of our inpatient unit and we look into a different workflows and we were able to use the solution in a real patient caring environment to validate its capability and also to get feedback from the front lines. Which were crucial to the success of the much larger scale deployment at the new hospital. So for example, at the time we were able to trigger alerts from the system, but we figured out, oh, the alerts was popped only out of the computers.

– [Ryan] Okay.

– [Felix] And but if the nurse is not beside the computer and we won’t be able to receive those alerts. So that’s why we attach, added a mobiles notification solution onto that within our new facility to solve that problem.

– [Ryan] Gotcha. And when you’re kind of going down this path as an organization, the management team is deciding what you want to implement, how you wanna deploy it. What kind of ROI are you looking for in these kinds of situations? Because in a lot of other industries, ROI is driven around revenue, kind of being able to justify it from a cost perspective. Is it the same in a hospital setting, or are there other things like patient satisfaction, the operational improvements that you have for staff, like are there other ROI that you’re kind of looking for when you’re deciding which types of use cases in a sense or solutions to deploy within the hospital itself?

– [Felix] Yeah, the healthcare is a little bit different and to see revenue, it’s not the key indicator for health care. Obviously we are, be mindful with all costs and be efficient and effective. But for example, the patient’s safety and the patient’s experience the outcome of the the care, and also for example, the length of stay and readmission rate, all kinds of different indicators are more important many times. And so those are the things we were looking into, to how to improve the overall experience of care. It’s not only driven by revenue or driven by the utilization, those kinds of dollar related data.

– [Ryan] Sure, out of curiosity, if as a lot of our listeners are probably more on the, they’ve been a patient at a hospital, they’d been a visitor at a hospital, probably not as many of them have worked in hospitals. What kind of things would they witness in a smart hospital that you maybe could tie this to maybe any potential use cases or applications of the technology that you deployed that directly connect to the experience of a potential patient or a visitor?

– [Felix] Yeah, absolutely. So if you, as an outpatient, for example, if they walk into our facility.

– [Ryan] Right.

– [Felix] The traditional registration is done by a desk like a person, which is a nurse or a clerk. And within our new hospital we have kiosks, like we would check in like in the airport, so it will be down through the kiosk and then it’s boom, it’s completely self-service. And if the patient is using our inpatient room, we have a iPad, a bedside iPad, which is kind of central hub to provide the patient with the experience. For example, they can order meals through the iPad. They can watch TVs and they can even broadcast some of the religion services that’s be happening in the hospital. So inpatient, they can watch those.

– [Ryan] Sure.

– [Ryan] Life and they will be able to access to their medication if they, education data based on their condition. So for example the patient, if the patient is going to have a procedure tomorrow and does all the preparations checklist will be presented on that iPad so a patient can do see a self study or to receive those information. And also with some recovery instructions that we’ll be push onto the iPad based on their condition. And further more, the patient will be able to control their room lights, the temperature, blinds through that iPad. It’s kind of a single point of device, which they can use to control their stay.

– [Ryan] So basically like a hub for everything they need to interact with while they’re there?

– [Felix] Exactly.

– [Ryan] And how did you all gauge the success when you’re doing the pilots? And so outside of curiosity, basically, when you were running these on a smaller scale were you just speaking with patients when they would leave, if asking how they enjoyed these new kinds of benefits and features of the hospital, or how were you kind of assessing how these were being received in success of each of these.

– [Felix] Yup. Yeah, so for example, with that, I’ve just to use the example we just mentioned about the iPad solution put in front of the patient with our old facility, we have older generation of the similar solution, but which has a much less features available. And we were able to put the new solution pilot with one of the unit and we are collecting those feedbacks from the patient so we can do a comparison, in between those two solutions. So overwhelmingly we see a lot of good feedbacks from the new solution that led us to decided to deploy that with the new facility. And also some of the feedbacks, I had an opportunity to correct or enhance the solution with the large scale deployment.

– [Ryan] That’s fantastic. And when you were building these solutions and deploying them, even at the pilot stage, what were the biggest challenges you all came across in your deploying IoT solutions with indoors in a healthcare setting that maybe you didn’t expect going into it or things kind of looking back that you realize were a bigger challenge than you originally thought?

– [Felix] Yeah, so a lot of challenges are about integration, so we have different systems being put in place within the new facility, even with a pilot. And obviously they need to talk to each other to drive those automated workflows.

– [Ryan] Okay.

– [Felix] And often time, those new integrations, so we are kind of at the leading edge of those integration and the solutioning and oftentimes it’s the first time being deployed in the real life environment. So it’s a completely different as you would tested in a lab. So you will see a lot of different things that we probably would never see in a lab environment. And in addition to that, and in the middle of the implantation, we’ve been throwing a curve ball called COVID. And that was a huge challenge for us, for our implementation team, for our vendors. And I still remembered at the time the installation crew, they had to come onsite at midnight to start their shift because we want to manage the capacity limit within that facility. So thanks to all the team members and all the vendors that dedication helped us to achieve the ultimate goal.

– [Ryan] So mentioning COVID, something I just thought about was, we’ve heard a lot about hospitals, having to put a lot of their IoT initiatives on hold because of COVID which makes a lot of sense. But did you all find any maybe potential new use cases or solutions that you’re looking you wanted to deploy that would help a situation like a pandemic or a health crisis that would ’cause an influx in patients, influx in visitors. In the future, is there something that maybe came out of the pandemic that you all took from it and were like, hey, we need to build a solution to help solve this, that maybe we wouldn’t have realized, otherwise if the pandemic let’s say did not happen?

– [Felix] Yes, so a lot of lessons learned through the pandemic in the last a year and a half, and one of the things we look at it was the virtual visit.

– [Ryan] Okay.

– [Felix] And that’s a huge thing ’cause we had that solution in the past before COVID even, but the utilization wasn’t very high at the time and as we are able to quickly deploy the expended solution to most of the physicians. It provides an additional, a way for them to continue to provide services for our patients. As example, at the starting over the COVID, the hospital was kind of in a lockdown situation and we have clinics inside of the hospitals that patients can not come in. And so that’s kind of had a huge problem at the beginning of that and as we are able to quickly deploy the virtual visit solution for physicians and for our patients, it’s kind of eased that problem. So that’s definitely something I think it will be continually needs to be deployed and enhanced over time.

– [Ryan] That makes a lot of sense, I’ve seen that in medical offices, big and small hospitals, physical therapy, places just kind of get into that virtual aspect, which the pandemic kind of really amplified the importance and the value of that. So that makes a lot of sense. One question I kind of had as a followup to almost everything you’ve been mentioning throughout this conversation is, from a leadership perspective within a hospital, the decision-makers that are analyzing the success of these solutions, what kind of data matter the most to you all and how do you foresee this new type of data that you’re able to collect from IoT benefiting the hospital kind of overtime in the long run?

– [Felix] Yeah, currently we have a variety of real-time dashboards and reports for our frontline nurses and even forth managers to make operational decisions.

– [Ryan] Yup.

– [Felix] And also we produce reports for our leadership team to make a cross-functional and strategic decisions.

– [Ryan] Okay.

– [Felix] As we are able to collect more data at all new facilities through IoT, we will integrate real-time data with the historical data to push them through the predictive analytics and machine learning.

– [Ryan] Yup.

– [Felix] So we think, as we collect more data we will be able to get to a point to start alert the likelihood of event and outcomes before they occur.

– [Ryan] Gotcha.

– [Felix] And to further reduce risks and improve of the outcome of care.

– [Ryan] And how do you see IoT technologies? We talked about RTLS here. How do you see all that playing into the future of healthcare, not just within your own hospitals, but hospitals around the world, different kinds of medical facilities. How do we kind of see, or I guess how do you all see IoT and RTLS and other technologies like that, playing a role in that future development and kind of what does the future of hospitals and smart hospitals would look like in your mind?

– [Felix] Yeah, in my mind is like, for example, we just use RTLS example, it’s like a GPS service, right? So you just imagine your own cell phone, you turn on your GPS and then you will be able to enable a lot of workflows and automation and in the healthcare facility it’s the same and if we are able to track our patients, track our equipment within the facility. And then we are able to layer this with all the data we have, so for example, we can feed those data into our EMR system. and when, for example, when a nurse is prepares for IV infusion in the EMR and the system can automatically pop up and inform the nurse where is the nearest available IV pump. so they can go and get it. So that’s just the one of the examples it can automate and help the nurses to get their work done more efficiently.

– [Ryan] And one of the last questions I wanna ask you before we wrap up here is from your side of things, maybe just personally, what are you most excited about for the future of smart hospitals, the technologies that are coming out, what are you hoping is enabled by these technologies and just, I guess generally, what excites you the most about IoT and in the hospital setting?

– [Felix] Yeah, the most excited about is we have this platform integrated systems and it can generate a lot of potentials and different opportunities. For us it’s the sky’s unlimited and we are able to use for example, as we have indoor RTLS system, we can layer up another application to guide the patients from A to B inside of the facility, which could be done through like Google Maps.

– [Ryan] Right.

– [Felix] In all those settings.

– [Ryan] Right.

– [Felix] And a lot of this, kind of possibilities still exist and we will continue to expand, our offering to our clinicians, to our patients based on this current platform. And those are once every time we have a new problem statement comes up and say, “Yeah, probably the technology can helps you solve that problem.” So those are the most exciting moments for me.

– [Ryan] Fantastic. And the last question I want to ask you here is, what advice do you have for companies out there, medical space or not that you may be able to kind of share around how you can go about selecting, not just the right technology, but also the right company to work with when you’re starting down your IoT journey. ‘Cause I know you all work with CenTrak and you probably went through a process to select CenTrak to be your partner for this solutions, how do you just generally, would you, however, I guess what general advice do you have for companies looking to go down their IoT journey on how to best select, not just the technology, but also the company they work with?

– [Felix] Yeah, so there are a lot of solutions up there and my advice is if you have the opportunity, I will suggesting you pilot a solution within your existing facility and even at a smaller scale. And even with like one unit, ’cause the real life pilot would provide you with a lot more that you will never see from a demo or from a Tesla.

– [Ryan] Right.

– [Felix] I think that’s probably the number one. And the second one is you need to involve end users, you need to involve clinicians, stakeholders during the selection and the pilot process because their active participation is a critical to ensure the technology truly meets their needs.

– [Ryan] Right, that’s fantastic. I think we’ve asked a lot of the experts on this show, a very similar question for their particular industry and it all resonates around the same principles. So I think it’s very well vetted now that that is the exact approach should be taking to get started on your IoT journey to ensure the best chance of success. So this has been fantastic. I appreciate you taking the time here to share kind of the insights into the smart hospital space, also with what you all are doing at your hospitals. Is there anything new or exciting coming out on your end or maybe from Mackenzie Health that we should be on the look out for, we could pay attention to, to kind of see new deployments of technology, new solutions you’re building to press solve certain problems or anything that just on the horizon that may be worth following on?

– [Felix] Yeah, so basically we opened a new hospital.

– [Ryan] Great.

– [Felix] I think less than six months ago and we are kind of in a stage to make sure all our solutions are being optimized for the next stage.

– [Ryan] Sure.

– [Felix] And obviously we’re looking to additional integration. For example, we want to reroute some of the alerts through our unified communication systems and we were looking to different opportunities up there and to fully utilize.

– [Ryan] Okay.

– [Felix] Those platforms, so we want to look in focus on more, to add more value from existing investment.

– [Ryan] Right.

– [Felix] Rather than deploy a brand new system. So this is where we want to look into and focus in the next few years.

– [Ryan] That’s fantastic, and that approaches is a good one. We’ve talked to a lot of companies, about how they’re able, once they start building down or going down an IoT path, they’re able to build on top of it, as opposed to starting new solutions from scratch and basically just continue to create a smarter, better environment and it sounds like that’s the exact path you are on which is great. Last question before I let you go and if anybody out there is listening and wants to follow up with any questions or maybe wants to dive more into what you all are doing just to learn or chat, what’s the best way to do that?

– [Felix] Yeah, maybe I can put my email up there so you can send me an email. My email [email protected], welcome to any comments any feedbacks or any new ideas.

– [Ryan] Awesome, we’ll make sure we include that in our description, We’ll link it in everything that we kind of post about this episode. But Felix, this has been a great conversation, a topic we haven’t talked a lot about. We haven’t been able to have any experts from the hospitals and medical space beyond the show. So I really appreciate you doing this. I’ve really enjoyed it. I think our audience is getting a ton of value out of it.

– [Felix] You’re welcome.

– [Ryan] Thank you.

– [Felix] Thank you.

– [Ryan] All right, everyone. Thanks again for watching that episode of the IoT For All Podcast. If you enjoyed the episode, please click the thumbs up button, subscribe to our channel and be sure to hit the bell notification so you get the latest episodes as soon as they become available. Other than that, thanks again for watching and we’ll see you next time.

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IoT For All is creating resources to enable companies of all sizes to leverage IoT. From technical deep-dives, to IoT ecosystem overviews, to evergreen resources, IoT For All is the best place to keep up with what's going on in IoT.
IoT For All is creating resources to enable companies of all sizes to leverage IoT. From technical deep-dives, to IoT ecosystem overviews, to evergreen resources, IoT For All is the best place to keep up with what's going on in IoT.