Racing to a hospital emergency room or a visit to a healthcare facility can often mean endless wait times and frustrating inefficiencies. That’s a negative (even unsafe) experience for patients and can be costly for providers. Healthcare IoT is aiming to change all that.
The Internet of Things (IoT) has been evolving in the healthcare industry, and recent pandemic years made it clear how much more progress is needed. Despite improvements like streamlined admissions, online scheduling, and telehealth, providers need to tap IoT to speed processes, increase patient safety, and improve the patient experience.
How healthcare IoT can reduce pain in a hospital
Many factors can bottleneck the delivery of emergency room or hospital care. Staff needs to tightly choreograph a wide range of resources: patients, intake staff and processes, doctors and specialists, beds and medical equipment, drug doses, supplies, and more. Delays at one stage can have an unfortunate ripple effect that impacts both patients and staff.
Healthcare IoT connected solutions provide actionable, real-time data that helps ensure care providers can work more efficiently. ‘Smarter’ processes can translate to cost savings for the organization, and more positive outcomes for patients.
Let’s look at some examples…
Patient ID wristbands can be embedded with IoT-enabled sensors that map their journey from the admission desk to final release. This IoT device could collect data on how much time was spent at every step of the 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.
For monitoring patient vitals, an IoT-enabled badge could monitor body temperature, pulse, respiratory rate, and blood pressure. Suppose someone is sitting in the waiting room and their fever spikes. The badge could send critical data to an integrated healthcare IoT platform that automatically sends text message alerts to the medical team so they can get priority care to that patient.
Smart wearables for remote health monitoring are improving efficiency and quality of care. For instance, care givers can remotely track activity patterns in elderly patients, or monitor glucose and insulin levels for safer diabetes management.
Hospital beds, critical supplies, and medical equipment can also be part of a connected emergency room. Is there an available bed? Where is the closest wheelchair? Is a blood pressure monitor malfunctioning? How many gauze rolls are left in Room 8, and what size are they?
ER and other hospital staff use up valuable time tracking information that could be collected automatically with connected services. IoT connectivity can help ensure busy employees have real-time data at their fingertips on a mobile device. Using IoT sensors, they can quickly locate medical equipment and even track and analyze staffing in different locations.
Increasing efficiency with healthcare IoT can also help solve urgent challenges like improving staff safety. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), long wait times are a major factor in violence against healthcare workers.1 Facilities are also struggling to be more energy-efficient. IoT can automate lighting and window shading to save energy and keep patients more comfortable.
IoT can also have a huge impact on how medications are managed in a hospital and the ER. For more than 10 years, hospitals have used bar codes to manage which drugs are being given to which patients. IoT devices can take medication management to the next level. Patient monitoring can indicate whether the medication is having the desired effect, like lowering a person’s blood pressure. And provide early-warning alerts about adverse reactions.
Healthcare IoT can also help hospitals manage inventories, ensuring that frequently-used meds are available without delay.
Making the case for healthcare IoT
Real-time data from IoT devices can dramatically streamline processes and improve patient outcomes. While many hospitals and large healthcare facilities are using connected devices, others may think the complexities of managing IoT may be too daunting or cost prohibitive.
In our work with Cisco, 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. Automated device monitoring, alerts and remote diagnostics enable the organization to quickly resolve connected device issues, so staff can stay focused on patient care.
And IoT in hospitals is now tapping into the power of AI and machine learning. Connected devices can be trained on large datasets to get smarter over time, delivering increasingly more value.