Microsoft is collaborating with digital engineering and software company Asbuilt to help provide new solutions that could transform the way hospitals are built and operated.
The companies have been working together on a project at Auckland Hospital that uses smart technology to digitise the hospital and create a ‘digital twin’, providing a digital footprint of all the hospital’s physical assets.
The system developed by Microsoft and Asbuilt captures data from intelligent internet of things (IoT) devices and hosts it on a secure and accessible Azure cloud platform.
According to Microsoft, this enables the hospital’s managers to understand exactly what resources are available and how to optimise the way spaces are used, while saving costs for frontline healthcare.
The work is aimed broadly at providing healthcare facilities with a way to maximise operational efficiencies amid a market climate that is seeing providers’ budgets in the sector stretched.
Auckland Hospital has joined the ranks of healthcare providers starting charitable foundations in order to raise the necessary funds for much-needed services, according to Microsoft.
To help healthcare providers and, specifically, Auckland Hospital, meet these challenges, Asbuilt is working to usher in a new era of spatially intelligent healthcare, making it easier for hospitals to see and store property information in the cloud and make their resources go further.
This is where the company’s collaboration with Microsoft comes in. The joint project revolves around the creation of a ‘digital twin’ of the hospital — a digital model that reveals buildings’ pipes and internal infrastructure. This is overlaid with 360-degree graphics designed to look exactly like the real interior of each room.
The work with Auckland Hospital has seen Asbuilt conduct what Microsoft claims is one of the largest digitisation capture projects in the country.
The company surveyed existing buildings using mobile cameras, drones and 3D laser scanners to create an accurate 3D model of each and every part of the entire hospital, from wards to medical equipment, to plant rooms and tunnels.
The ‘digital twin’ itself is housed in a single Azure-based database, dubbed the Asbuilt Vault, which stands a central repository for the digital assets.
According to Asbuilt managing director David Burton, having a precise replica of a hospital enables healthcare providers to realise efficiencies of operation and management in a way that was previously not possible.
“Just 2 per cent of the total cost throughout a building’s life cycle is design and planning, 10 per cent is construction, and circa 88 per cent is maintenance and operating costs,” Burton said. “More and more asset owners are becoming aware that while a digitised spatial database carries an upfront cost, it saves more in the longer term.
“Anything that can be done to reduce those costs is going to enable more money to be spent on frontline healthcare,” he added.
For Microsoft New Zealand’s public sector director Emma Barrett, the work showcases the broader applications of such technology for public healthcare.
“Construction and maintenance of facilities is a huge expense for DHBs [district health boards] and other healthcare providers,” Barrett said, “and every dollar they can save on these processes is money that can be reinvested in New Zealanders’ health.
“What’s special about the solution Asbuilt has created is that it manages to save build and ongoing maintenance costs and maximise health and safety on site, yet also minimises any construction defects and creates new platforms for community engagement.
“We see so much opportunity across the healthcare sector for this kind of technology, which can benefit every one of us,” she added.