Internet of Things: From Convenience to Cost-Saving to Critical Usage

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Geoff Zawolkow

Guest post by Geoff Zawolkow, CEO, Lab Sensor Solutions.

I woke up this morning, anxious about my doctor’s appointment. I quickly showered, dressed, walked and fed the dog, grabbed my phone, and hopped in the car for the 30-minute drive. As I took my seat in the waiting room I realized that I’d forgotten to set my home alarm.

Because of IoT the solution is now simple. I bring up the app on my phone and set the alarm to “Away”, and while I’m at it I decide to program my DVR to record the season finale of “Downton Abbey.” So, I bring up the DVR app on my phone and click-click-click, Downton Abbey will be recorded. Maybe I’ll watch last week’s episode right now, but with that, I’m called into the exam room for my appointment.

With IoT bringing convenience and luxury like this into the lives of everyone with a smart phone, it’s logical that this same technology has been extended for use by the healthcare community and the clinical laboratory in particular.

In 1999 when the article “To Err is Human—Building a Safer Health System”  was published by the Institute Of Medicine, the number and complexity of medical errors shocked the whole medical community. Often, these errors could be attributed to human mistakes. Since that time the medical community has developed systems to help reduce those errors. Checklists during surgery, automated systems for testing blood in the laboratory, better procedures to prevent contamination.  Even given these, eliminating errors has proven to be very difficult.

That difficulty can be seen in maintaining the quality of blood and urine samples for testing; for example, from a lost sample or a one suffering from temperature violation. How can lab personnel and doctors be assured that a sample remained frozen when the sample might have been distorted by summer heat or due to a delay due to unusually heavy traffic? According to Dave Dexter, CEO of Sonora Quest Laboratories, 70 percent of healthcare spending is impacted by clinical test results. Human error has always and will always be a contributing factor in manual processes.

While society in general reaps the benefits from the Internet of Things in time-saving and conveniences of being able to track, for example, their keys, wallets and phones, the medical industry is also evolving. Medical samples and the humans entrusted with their transport and receipt can be monitored to avoid errors, that would otherwise result in expensive do-overs. With the ability to reduce tedious manual processes through automation, medical institutions are able to ensure samples remain uncontaminated by temperature violations. Since a proper diagnosis is dependent upon accurate and secure samples, a consequence of not using these automations resulted in having to recall the patient for a duplicate sample draw.

By automating the sample tracking during transportation, administrators or their colleagues can be warned, via wireless technology when samples are about to become unusable. Corrective actions can then be taken immediately to prevent sample spoilage. An overall historical picture showing departure times, transport times, arrival times and conditions during transport can be viewed at any time, by simply logging into a website, ensuring SOPs have been followed and being able to correct instances of failure, in real time.

While IoT is still in its early developmental years, the impact of its infancy on the medical industry is unquestionable. Ultimately, using IoT in the medical arena will reduce costs, lead to fewer misdiagnoses, assist in conforming with standards, and provide a higher quality of life for professionals and patients.

While it’s still too early to determine the amount of savings earned by using IoT to help automate laboratory processes, it’s not too early to predict that the number will be significant.

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