Sir Robert Naylor’s report on the future of the NHS estate highlights many issues facing the organisation as it tries to meet the demand of delivering more sophisticated and successful health care to a growing and ageing population. It shows that the NHS estate can be a enabler of more productive healthcare.
Austerity has led to calls for evidence of existing asset utilisation as part of business cases for new buildings. Digitalisation means that people work differently now, with less reliance on a fixed base. The opportunity is to become more efficient and productive by doing more with the same physical resources.
Translating these trends into the NHS context, the pressure for increased health services cannot be delivered from a poor quality, inefficient and expensive estate that is evolving too slowly to keep pace with the rate of change. Estate planning involves long term decisions with buildings having a lifespan of 60 years. Health service planning, however, operates on a 5 year forward view. This means buildings may become functionally obsolete. There are also legacy issues including backlog maintenance and legal structures that can constrain the ability to change. Health estate planning is difficult.
To improve the health estate we need to remove unsuitable buildings, ensure space is used intensively and to consider clustering buildings in a strategic way. We need to focus on delivering high performing assets.
High performing assets are in the right place, of good quality, used intensively and are cost effective. Just as in manufacturing, where a machines performance is measured by how many widgets it can produce in a given time, we need to measure our buildings in a similar way, e.g. by the number of patients treated. This allows benchmarking irrespective of location and will shine a light on where things need to change. Ultimately, we are aiming for a portfolio that has fewer buildings and delivers a better return on investment.
The big challenge is a lack of data on how buildings are used. The arrival of the Internet of Things and Smart Buildings now makes it possible to address this challenge.
The Internet of Things is the combination of cloud computing, low cost data storage, highly accurate low cost sensors and advanced analytics that allows data to be gathered and analysed from buildings in real time. This means we can understand building use in granular detail, optimise space demand and supply and improve the sustainability of the assets. We can now turn any building into a smart building by providing it with the ability to communicate its current status.
When buildings begin to talk, it allow us to use space more intensively, reduce running costs and increase the flexibility of use. Outside the NHS smart buildings are being used by providers like WeWork, an 8 year old company that is now valued at more than $20 billon, to bring “Space as a service” to life. Companies like IBM, HSBC and Microsoft are moving away from their old style commercial leases to more flexible ways of acquiring space and using digital technology to help schedule where and when they have space available for employees. Deloitte invested in “The Edge”, billed as the smartest building in the world, that reducing their real estate overheads by 33%.
At Beringar, we believe that clever space can unlock potential. Once we gather data, we automatically make recommendations that allow the building to help people to work more efficiently. In the future, buildings will think, using artificial intelligence to undertake some of the tasks that people do today. For example, when space is vacant the building will automatically put it on the market, reducing void times and costs.
If you would like to know more about how Beringar can help your organisation achieve productive space, please contact us today to schedule a demonstration of our smart sensor technology.