How technology and digital are shaping healthcare estates

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  • How technology and digital are shaping healthcare estates
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Nathan Monks


Nathan Monks


Capability , Future Thinking
Market Insights

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Anyone who has worked in the built environment with healthcare estates and facilities in the last decade will have seen remarkable change.

Not only have our estates had to adapt to changing demographics and behaviours of those within the communities they serve, but also to massive economic, environmental, and societal challenges.

In this context, many estates managers are grappling with ageing infrastructure, meeting government targets and balancing budgets where often business cases costs versus delivery investments have increased tenfold or more. As consultants working across the built environment and specialising in the healthcare arena, we are well placed to see where efficiencies can be generated, and where technology can facilitate these efficiencies.

Of course, the introduction of technology to estates and facilities management has been a gamechanger. The use of digital techniques to save time, resources and generate big data and insights to support informed choices have made the difference to many projects being green lighted and getting senior buy in from Trusts and other stakeholders. Here we outline some of the day-to-day technology we are seeing being used in the healthcare space and how the RLB team is providing better solutions for its clients facilitated through technology.

Thermal imaging

One of the challenges for all estate managers is understanding the current state of their properties and being able to prioritise maintenance, repair and renovation. The RLB team supports healthcare estates teams across the country providing building surveying services to do just this, illustrating where investment is needed and to be able to support their applications for this investment. Being as efficient in time, resources and budget are key to any projects undertaken, especially when the project might need to be undertaken while the building remains operational, and technology has allowed this to accelerate at a rapid pace.

Our recent project with the Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust is a great example. Commissioned to undertake an inspection of the roofs, the RLB surveying team used thermographic imaging cameras and drone technology as a capture method. Intrinsic to the estates survey, the imagery helped highlight areas of the roofs and the structure where heat loss was apparent as well as roof leaks and trapped moisture, and from this a roofing improvement plan was developed. Working with the cost management service within RLB, allowed the development of a priced strategy plan for roof upgrade. This work fed into not only the hospital’s maintenance agenda but also the hospital’s net carbon zero plan.

360 degrees walk round survey

Often surveys involve multiple rooms, in multiple buildings looking at multiple facets which although essential to record and assess can be time consuming and expensive to resource. However, technology like 360-degree Open Space application improves surveying efficiency by freeing up resource as it allows surveys to take place without the need for in person attendance within the area being surveying. Providing the user with a desktop visual walk around of the site, assets can be assessed room by room while viewing the building as a whole, saving time and money. The client is then presented with the floor plan and can click on the trail image where the surveyor has walked and viewed the imagery. The survey information is particularly useful as the properties are ‘live’ functioning buildings where activity is constant and where there can be restricted access. The software contains AI which recognises a person’s face who may be in an image and blurs the face providing GDPR compliance. The technology can also be used on live projects where a walk around survey can be undertaken on a weekly or monthly basis of the project site and a timeline can be given throughout the construction period aiding maintenance in the future.

Data is the golden thread

However, if the technology is the facilitator, it is the data that is the real gold thread of estate management. With technology enabled platforms like RLB’s Field and Focus, both that capture data in real time, information is digitally recorded, and insights created allowing RLB experts to interpret the data and provide informed judgements about estates that can help to support Green Plans and other governance requirements for hospital estate managers.

We know that technology will continue to change at a rapid rate and that embracing this is essential not only to continue to provide the best solution to our clients but to drive resource, time and budget efficiencies for healthcare estate managers.

RLB Digital support our services, ensuring we not only have the right tools at our fingertips, but also the right tools for our clients’ specific needs too. With our in-depth sector knowledge and our digital expertise, we’ll work with you to deliver smart, practical solutions to address your unique challenges. Contact to learn more.