By: Tim Mitchell, healthcare district sales manager at Advantech
The healthcare industry is experiencing an era of dramatic transformation driven by the rise of innovative new technology solutions. In hospitals and emergency rooms around the world, efficiency and accuracy are often life-or-death matters. Today, the increased availability of IoT-enabled devices is revolutionizing the healthcare space – improving both operational efficiencies and patient outcomes in a variety of unexpected ways.
From streamlining internal and external processes, to boosting efficiency, reducing costs and bolstering patient engagement, here are four ways IoT is revolutionizing the healthcare industry:
1. Real-time Location System (RTLS) Technology:
Hospitals house countless supplies, tools and devices that are extremely expensive and difficult to replace should they be misplaced or breakdown. IoT implementation in the hospital setting is enabling a better way to track these assets, helping hospitals to operate in a more timely and efficient manner. Tracking down a nurse or doctor, or locating a specific medical device or piece of equipment, may seem like simple tasks, but this is far from the truth. The time wasted on these wild goose chases can cost hospitals hours of lost productivity. IoT devices that utilize real-time location system technology allow specific items or people to be easily and precisely tracked. With RTLS technologies, medical facilities and hospitals can create unified systems for managing inventory, assets and even personnel, which results in increased productivity and budget savings.
2. Patient Experience and Engagement:
IoT technology is also helping patients – particularly those with chronic conditions – to better control, monitor and manage their health, resulting in a higher quality of care and reduced healthcare costs for all parties. “Suitcase kits” are the new in-home, round-the-clock care solution. Whether it’s a knee surgery or congestive heart failure, patients are now able to take home these kits to help doctors monitor their recovery remotely. The kits may include a tablet or wearable device to keep medical staff apprised of patient vitals including blood pressure, temperature, heart rate, etc. – remotely and in real-time. The patient can also instantaneously and digitally log and report certain symptoms that they may develop. This permits a doctor to provide a recommendation virtually, without needing the patient to be readmitted, which can be costly and burdensome to both the patient and hospital.
Healthcare wayfinding is another taxing problem for large medical facilities and hospitals, as most visitors and patients are already in a heightened state of anxiety about personal health concerns that have led them to see a doctor in the first place. This multiplies when the added stress of navigating a large, unknown campus to find their way to their intended destination is introduced. Updating signage, while proven to be effective, is now a thing of the past with the rise of IoT. Digital wayfinding solutions, like blue-dot navigation apps, touchscreen kiosks and tablets distributed to patients upon arrival, are sweeping through hospitals across the nation. These tools are enabling hospitals to reduce patient anxiety, no matter the age or socioeconomic status of the individual, while also making it easier for staff members to locate and track patients.
4. Predictive Maintenance:
Medical equipment and operating room tools and devices require consistent and timely maintenance, in order to avoid costly breakdowns and operational issues. In the past, hospital personnel had to manually update maintenance logs regarding when each piece of equipment was most recently checked or routinely maintained. With up to 25 different pieces of complex equipment in an operating room at a given time, this manual tracking effort quickly grows cumbersome and prone to human oversight. By automating the maintenance process through artificial intelligence (AI), predictive maintenance can now be conducted – meaning less time logging and scheduling maintenance, as well as less worry over unexpectedly needing to shut down an operating room due to a technical or mechanical issue.
While the cost of IoT implementation has often been a barrier, the healthcare industry is increasingly recognizing that the ROI benefits vastly outweigh initial costs with improvements across patient care, and reduction of expense to both patients and providers. The industry should expect to continue to see the rapid adoption of these types of technologies in the hospital setting.