If you’ve ever been to a hospital emergency room, you know the endless wait time and dismissive service can make your experience even more painful. Some healthcare providers are stepping up with workflow improvements such as streamlining admissions and scheduling, and updating protocols so nurses can play an expanded role in patient care. Yet it’s not enough to really increase patient satisfaction, so hospitals are scrambling for more innovative solutions. That’s where the Internet of Things is gearing up to play a big role. You guessed it; IoT might streamline your next trip to the ER.
How IoT can help hospitals and improve the patient experience
Many factors can bottleneck the delivery of emergency room care. They need to tightly choreograph many elements: patients, intake staff and processes, doctors and specialists, beds, medical equipment, drug doses, supplies, and other hospital resources. Delays at one stage can have an unfortunate ripple effect. IoT connected solutions could provide actionable data that helps rescue (and expedite!) the patient experience.
- Connected patients – Your patient ID wristband could be embedded with IoT-enabled sensors that map your journey from the admission desk to final release. This IoT device could collect data on how much time you spent at every step of your ER visit, so it can be analyzed for trends to improve processes. And in real-time, hospital staff can have an accurate picture of how many patients are waiting, where they are now, and where each of them will need to go next.
Taking it even further to improve your patient experience, an IoT-enabled badge could monitor your body temperature, pulse, respiratory rate, and blood pressure. If your fever spikes while you’re sitting in the waiting room, your badge could send critical data to an integrated IoT platform that automatically sends text message alerts to the medical team so they can get priority care to you.
- Connected infrastructure – Hospital beds, critical supplies, and medical equipment can also be part of a connected emergency room. Is there an available bed? Does a room need to be cleaned? Is the blood pressure monitor malfunctioning? Is the sharps container full? How many gauze rolls are left in Room 8, and what size are they?
Today, ER staff use up valuable time tracking information that could be collected automatically with connected services – ensuring busy hospital employees have the data they need at their fingertips on a mobile device.
- Connected medications – IoT can also have a huge impact on how medications are managed in the ER. For more than 10 years, hospitals have used bar codes to manage which drugs are being given to which patients. IoT can take care delivery to the next level. Patient monitoring can indicate whether the medication is having the desired effect, like lowering a person’s blood pressure. IoT can also help hospitals manage inventories, ensuring that frequently-used ER meds, like Tylenol or Epinephrine, are available without delay.
Making the connected ER a reality
Running secure, reliable connected solutions – with IoT devices sharing data and services for both patients and the medical environment – could dramatically streamline the ER experience. But hospitals may be scared off: the complexities of managing it all may seem too daunting or cost prohibitive. In our work with Cisco Jasper, the industry leader in IoT platform technology, we’ve seen that IoT success relies on having efficient, automated ways to keep connected services running smoothly and at the lowest possible cost.
An IoT-enabled hospital may need to manage hundreds of connected devices – so eliminating manual processes and avoiding unexpected costs is mission critical. They’ll need 24/7 device monitoring to detect abnormal behavior, text alerts to keep staff informed, and remote diagnostics to quickly resolve connectivity issues from a central dashboard without having to physically track down a malfunctioning device. Because the hospital needs to stay focused on patient care, technology needs to do that heavy lifting.
Improving the ER experience will still require balancing many complex factors. But with the Internet of Things, hospitals just might be able to make it less of a pain.