In the latest episode of our Energy Transition Talks series, CGI Global Industry Lead for Health and Life Sciences Ben Goldberg joins Peter Warren to discuss the interdependence between healthcare and energy systems, emphasizing the need for a balanced approach to ensure a healthy society. Specifically, they examine the interplay between ecosystems and supply chains, the emergence of smart, “green hospitals,” and how data innovation and digital twins are driving sustainable, resilient healthcare.

Digital twins and “triplets” in healthcare

While hospitals play a vital role in healthcare, they often contribute significantly to emissions due to aging infrastructure and inefficient buildings. For example, Ben points out that many hospitals have been around for decades, and while some modernization efforts have been made, they are still not energy friendly. This, he says, is an opportunity for new technologies to enter the mix.

Notably, digital twins—which create digital representation of physical assets—have gained traction in healthcare. Moving beyond just monitoring energy consumption, digital twins offer compelling use cases, such as providing visibility into the patient journey and help address outcomes. As Ben highlights, the ability to mirror the physical world digitally through digital twins has numerous facets and opportunities within the healthcare sector.

Sharing a term coined by Diane Gutiw, a leader in AI and digital twins at CGI, Peter raises the use cases for “digital triplets,” referring to using three interconnected digital twins:

  1. A twin modeling the patient’s health and wellbeing
  2. A twin modeling the operations of the healthcare facility itself (energy use, HVAC systems, etc.)
  3. A third twin analyzing the causes and effects between the first two twins.

This model allows for optimizing not just patient care, but the facility's energy efficiency and sustainability as well. For example, Ben and Peter discuss the fact that "green hospitals" are being built globally to produce their own electricity and hydrogen fuel, while using digital twins to intelligently control heating, cooling, lighting, and more based on patient occupancy levels.

Drivers for new technology adoption and innovation

Examining proactive, innovative solutions within the energy space, Ben points to some key factors driving the adoption of digital triplet systems:

  • Legislation and incentives: Particularly in the EU, there are initiatives and regulations incentivizing sustainability and energy efficiency in healthcare facilities.
  • Post-COVID refocus: As the COVID crisis subsides, hospitals have more bandwidth to focus on sustainability initiatives alongside patient care.
  • Cost savings: Digital twins can uncover significant energy and operational cost savings for healthcare providers.
  • Technology enablers: Advances in IoT, digital twins, AI and renewable energy generation are making these smart, sustainable hospital models feasible.

While adoption has been faster in Europe so far, he says, the benefits of the digital triplet approach are causing it to gain traction in North America as healthcare providers look for innovative ways to improve patient care while reducing energy costs and environmental impact.

Improving efficiency with cloud innovation and data center optimization

While introducing solar panels and energy creation within the facility itself may not be feasible for all hospitals, there are certainly opportunities to explore in this area. According to Ben, the focus should be on finding efficiencies and improvements through the vendor community and supply chain that impact the organization's environmental, social, and governance (ESG) metrics.

Data centers also play a crucial role, especially in the healthcare industry. Healthcare facilities generate a significant amount of data, including medical imaging, patient records and various other types of data. Keeping up with the growing data demands and leveraging automation and new technologies is essential, presenting opportunities for innovation and efficiency gains. Peter also highlights the importance of optimizing code efficiency to reduce cycle time, which not only improves program performance but also decreases energy consumption.

Another potential area of opportunity, Ben suggests, is transitioning from on-premises solutions to cloud-based services, which could introduce efficiencies and reduce the environmental impact. Additionally, embracing cutting-edge innovations and technologies could unlock further opportunities for optimizing data center operations and improving overall sustainability.

Healthcare sustainability and resilience

Turning to energy and supply chain impacts on hospitals, Ben and Peter explore ways to improve sustainability and resilience in the healthcare industry. Some key examples they identify:

  • Reducing waste: Healthcare organizations have opportunities to reduce waste through principles like the circular economy and sustainable procurement practices.
  • Sustainable infrastructure and emergency preparedness: Implementing sustainable infrastructure and enhancing emergency preparedness within the healthcare sphere is crucial.
  • Partner ecosystem: Working with partners and leveraging tools like ESG accounting can provide visibility into sustainability impacts and opportunities for improvement.
  • Digital twin technologies: These can simulate procedures like emergency codes, allowing staff to train on the proper sequence of events.
  • Learning from others: Organizations can learn from successful sustainability initiatives implemented by others, across diverse geographies and jurisdictions.

When implemented thoughtfully, Ben says, new technologies can compound efficiencies across an entire healthcare system, from patient navigation and medical waste to energy use and process optimization. This holistic digital transformation can enhance operations while elevating the quality of patient care and sustainability in the healthcare industry.

For Ben, “The end result is really trying to transform healthcare and change lives and create impact that is going to resonate. I'm keeping a watchful eye on how we can leverage a lot of technologies, be it digital twins or triplets and new AI opportunities to help continue to increase the results and better the outcomes for individuals. And it's platforms like this and conversations like this that I really think help drive it.”

Listen to other podcasts in this series to learn more about the energy transition

Read the transcript:

1. Introduction: The interplay between healthcare and energy systems

Peter Warren

Welcome everybody to another installment of our energy and utilities podcast series on how our industry impacts and works with other industries. Today, I'm joined by Ben Goldberg from our healthcare side. Do you want to give us a quick intro for yourself, Ben?

Ben Goldberg

Yeah, for sure. Thanks so much, Pete. Great to be here. I appreciate the invite and the opportunity. Hi, everyone. My name is Ben Goldberg. I am the new Global Industry Lead for Health and Life Sciences with CGI. New to the role, not new to CGI. I've been with the organization nearing five years now, focused on the Canadian health care market. I'm based out of our Toronto, Ontario offices, but I've also had the opportunity to collaborate with our teams internationally—hopefully some of that stuff we'll get a chance to talk about today. My background is in healthcare and IT. I worked primarily with some of the health agencies within Ontario and the Ministry of Health, had done some work with the private sector as well, and have been doing some consulting for the better part of the last 10 years too. So again, really excited to be here and have this chat with you.

Peter Warren

Yeah, it's great, Ben. And it's great having you on the team because we've been talking a lot about the interplay of ecosystems and supply chains. I mean, we can't have a healthy society without healthy health care, but also good energy. And there's a lot of interaction. So, we'll dive into a few of these things today and just see how it all pans out. But one of the areas we agreed to talk about, which is a key one for folks, is where hot smart hospitals come into play, digital twins and all those interconnections, because they really do want to work and do things much differently. What're your thoughts on that?

Ben Goldberg

Yeah, 100 percent. It's an interesting correlation between the two industries, between energy utilities and the healthcare sphere. You know, hospitals are some of the worst perpetrators of emissions; they have the most inefficient buildings that you'll find out there. For the most part, you'll find some hospitals have been around for decades, and while there're some updates that happen to infrastructure and some modernization exercises that transpire as well, they still are not too energy-friendly, all things considered, and there's opportunity there.

2. Digital twins are creating opportunities for healthcare innovation

Ben Goldberg

Not even too recently, but within the last, I would say decade plus, there have been some interesting technologies around digital twins, and we see that being leveraged across sectors. Notably within healthcare, there are some very interesting opportunities, not just to link in the consumption pieces, but I've seen and worked with organizations that actually can translate some of the visibility that a digital twin provides into tracking the patient journey and ensuring that some of that outcome is addressed as well. So, the physical opportunity to mimic the physical with the digital reality in a digital twin scenario has just so many different facets and so many opportunities within healthcare for sure.

Peter Warren

Yeah, Diane Gutiw, who we've had on this podcast before, who's our leader at CGI for AI and digital twins, has coined the term “digital triplet” recently. And for those that aren't familiar with that, that's when you have AI digital twins doing a bunch of things, but then another twin or triplet in this case, looking for the cause and effects. So, for example, looking at a patient's health and wellbeing, but then also looking at how the hospital itself is operating and running from an energy standpoint could be one of those use cases. Are we heating it appropriately? Are we cooling it appropriately? Are we putting electricity where we need to, even to the point where we now see “green hospitals” being built around the world, where they're really producing their own electricity. They're even making their own hydrogen, not only out of the local city water or some other source and using electricity to do so, but then also storing that hydrogen to run their backup generators for later use. And of course, they have a real need for the oxygen. How do you see all that coming together where even data centers and energy consumption is all mixed together with all of these things for hospitals?

3. Key drivers for new technology adoption and advancement

Ben Goldberg

It's interesting. I've seen a lot of very proactive and innovative solutions that are being done within the energy space, notably within the EU and a lot of work overseas. Sometimes I think it's got to do with the jurisdiction and some of the legislation that's in place because there's initiatives to do the best when you can for patient outcomes and you want to, of course, address other things, including environmental issues and some of the energy consumption opportunities that are out there.

But it depends, you know, the old carrot and stick as well, right? You want to do what's best, but you may need to be incentivized. You know, as we're getting out of post -COVID days, there was a lot of focus heads down within the healthcare sector to focus on patient outcomes, patient wellbeing, and not that energy consumption and ESG were not top of mind, but they were not priority. And we still, you know, we do these, as you're very much aware, these voice of the client interviews where we interact with our client base and get a sense from them or where some of these macro trends are.

And you see a fluctuation that happens between North America and Europe. And I think a lot of that has to do with, again, the carrot and stick. But as we're sort of coming on the other side of COVID, there's a bit more of an opportunity to refresh some of the outlooks and see where there's some of these engagements that you can integrate into your business plan to find some efficiencies from a cost -saving perspective. And I think energy and utilities, digital twin, and some of these opportunities really do help pave the way for it.

you know, specifically within some of the use cases I've seen with hospitals, the digital twin can mimic what the instances are of capturing the patient traffic within the organization. So when a hospital has a room that's unoccupied, the digital twin can kick in, it can dim the lights, it can change the temp, it can find opportunities for efficiencies within each of the separate rooms. And even simple things like that can really have a lasting effect with the rate of turnover that you have in a hospital with, you know, two, 300 beds, let alone across the whole jurisdiction. So, I think a lot of this is coming back to be top of mind and there's some really, really cool pieces that we can introduce.

4. Cloud innovation and data center optimization can drive efficiency

Peter Warren

Yeah, and I started this conversation off about putting solar panels, making your own hydrogen. That might be a bridge too far for some hospitals, but all hospitals have data centers and different things like that. What's your viewpoint on what they could do to optimize data centers, for example?

Ben Goldberg

Yeah, it's looking outside of the scope of what you have capturing and the capability to address. So, to your point, maybe introducing solar panels and some of the creation of energy within the four walls might be a bit of a stretch, but there's definitely opportunities there. But when you start to look beyond it in some of the vendor community that you lean on, who are in themselves impacting some of the ESG metrics that you're looking at, you're trying to sort of scale back on where you can find those opportunities for efficiencies, I think data centers is really key specifically within healthcare. You've got a significant amount of data that's generated within a healthcare facility, be it imaging information, be it patient charts and summaries or all the different types of images, pardon me, data that you're capturing within the facility and that you're funneling into the facility as well. And that's got a major lean on data centers and infrastructure and trying to keep up with automation and new technologies that are out there as well. So I think there's a huge play to happen in there to leverage maybe some more cutting edge innovation, be it from a cloud perspective and getting off some of the on -prem solutions that are out there or other types of opportunities to introduce some efficiencies.

Peter Warren

I know that when we've been talking about this with other folks is inefficiency in code. My wife worked in healthcare, so I know some of the systems she worked on, they were written well, but they could be written better. Getting rid of some loss of code that drops cycle time, which makes not only the program run faster and more efficiently, but drops its energy consumption is a relatively easy, straightforward thing. We see a lot of people engaging in that.

5. Improving resilience and sustainability in healthcare

That really kind of comes back into the whole sustainability and resilience of healthcare. How do you see some of the interplay between energy, but also just general supply chain impacting the resilience of hospitals?

Ben Goldberg

Yeah, I think that there's opportunity for health care organizations to reduce waste. There's principles around circular economy that could be entertained, sustainable procurement practices as well. So there's a few core themes I think that can be introduced in a sustainability model for sure. Trying to have sustainable infrastructure and emergency preparedness specifically within a healthcare sphere is top of mind. And there are opportunities that are out there, even in sort of the less sexy piece of it, but the way that you're capturing some of the sustainability within your partner ecosystem is really important too. We've got clients and partners that we work with, like an organization called Persephone, who helps you with the ESG accounting that you need to do, which helps create visibility around where some of those impacts are and opportunities to introduce some more sustainable practices. So, you know, there's definitely a way around it and you can...

I think my guidance would be that you can learn a lot by what others have implemented. And we have the luxury of being able to have global presence and work with a lot of organizations in different jurisdictions who've successfully implemented quite a bit in their sustainability journey. So lots to be learned from those instances.

Peter Warren

Yeah, I've seen some very interesting innovation, maybe a couple things that we talked about. One was a solution that was built to actually help patients get around the hospital to actually see where they're going to go. So they have on their phone a virtual reality capability of routing them to things, which just makes everything more efficient. People aren't lost. You don't have to have as many systems, but also in waste management, I know that we've got people looking at advanced systems to manage the protocol for disposing of basically medical waste in a more efficient way. What are your thoughts about just how people are using these new tools?

Ben Goldberg

Yeah, I mean, 100%. There's the overall organization and what their view is for some of those opportunities, but even to a more micro level, you know, I've been reading some interesting impact that energy efficiency can have, and it's even in terms of air quality or ventilation systems or even a reduction in noise from some of the inefficient machinery that exists within hospitals and the impact that has on the patient population who are trying to sleep, trying to heal. So it's a little bit of seeing beyond even what you look at at the entire organization level, but also at that micro patient level. Some of the digital twin technologies, to come back to that, they integrate processes that are existing within hospitals too. So you have different codes that happen for different types of healthcare instances where you need to have a certain series of events that correspond. And you can actually trigger a lot of these digital twin instances to learn about those processes, implement them, the patient care journey because of that within the four walls and achieve all those efficiencies at once. So there's really this compounding effort that can come into play.

6. Key takeaways: technology, AI and conversations are shaping the path forward

Peter Warren

Yeah, as we wrap up here, and I'll give you the final word, but just to add to that, I mean, we've got a lot of fatigued healthcare workers out there. I'm sure a quieter, more subdued environment is going to make the efficiency of all of those healthcare workers a lot happier too. So as we wrap up here, what are your sort of final thoughts and give you a chance to do a bit of a plug on your own podcast coming up?

Ben Goldberg

Ha, ha, ha.
Yeah, for sure. Maybe I start with that. You know, I love having the opportunity to showcase what's happening within the industry. And I think podcasts, quite frankly, I think I'm late to the game. There's so many that are out there and there's such value that can be ascertained from it as well. You know, I intend to leverage not just the work that we're doing within my jurisdiction, but the visibility that I get within this role and some of the impacts that have happened in other jurisdictions too. And I just think that's going to provide so much value to all of your listeners, all of our listeners in the community out there helping to transform healthcare and change lives. And that's really what our tagline is moving into this next fiscal. The work that we do within our industries have a direct effect on people. They have an effect in our people -centric approach to delivering IT and business consulting services. And I keep that in mind. One thing that I think is true to healthcare, which is, some other industries can say it too, but I think it's specific within health is that it's more a calling than it is a career. So you have a lot of very passionate people that come into the healthcare sphere, be it from an IT support perspective, be it from energy and ESG and efficiencies that can be achieved. But the end result is really trying to transform lives and change, transform healthcare and change lives and create impact that are going to resonate. So, you know, I'm keeping a watchful eye on how we can leverage a lot of technologies, be it digital twins or triplets and new AI opportunities to help. you know, move the yards that can help to, you know, continue to increase the results and better the outcomes for individuals. And it's platforms like this and conversations like this that I really think help drive it. So, thanks so much again, Pete.

Peter Warren

You're welcome. And I've really enjoyed our conversations and working with you and our other industry leaders as we look how, you know, all these things from banking to healthcare to transportation all intertwined. So, thank you very much, Ben. We'll pick you everybody up on our next podcast. Do look for Ben's healthcare podcast coming out soon in June, I believe. And thanks very much everyone. Bye.