By Tim Mitchell, healthcare vertical sales manager, Advantech.
From a technology standpoint, we are amid a transformative era within the healthcare industry. In a hospital setting, where efficiency and accuracy are often life-or-death matters, the increased availability of IoT devices is revolutionizing the healthcare space. In any given hospital, there are countless supplies, tools and devices, each of which are extremely expensive. IoT is enabling a better way to track these assets, helping hospitals to operate in a more timely and efficient manner
Additionally, IoT is a driving force behind how patients now interact with technology. Whether it’s follow-up care instructions via a text message, portal sites or email appointment reminders, the idea is to engage patients electronically and remotely. This helps 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.
IoT is allowing the healthcare industry to streamline processes, boosting efficiency and reducing costs, which is why we will continue to see the rapid adoption of these types of devices in the hospital setting.
Here are four ways IoT is currently revolutionizing the healthcare industry:
Healthcare “wayfinding” is a major problem for large medical facilities and hospitals, as most patients are already anxious about having to see a doctor –and this multiplies with the added stress of having to navigate a large, unknown campus. Updating signage, while proven to be effective, has become outdated with the rise of IoT. Digital wayfinding solutions, like blue-dot navigation apps, touchscreen kiosks and tablets that are distributed to patients upon arrival, are sweeping through hospitals across the nation and help reduce new patient anxiety, no matter their age or socioeconomic status.
Patient experience and engagement
Whether it’s a knee surgery or congestive heart failure, patients are now able to take home ‘suitcase kits’ to help doctors monitor their conditions and recovery remotely. Depending on the patient, these kits may include a tablet or different wearable devices that will monitor the patient’s vitals in real-time, like blood pressure, temperature, etc. The patient can also log and report certain conditions or symptoms that they may develop post-surgery, allowing a doctor to provide a diagnosis or recommendation virtually. Post-care has always been an issue in the healthcare industry. The idea is to improve post-care patient engagement and experience via IoT devices to prevent a readmission, which is extremely costly to both the patient and hospital.
The simple task of trying to track down a nurse or doctor, or locate a specific piece of medical equipment, can cost hospitals hours of lost productivity. IoT devices that utilize Real-Time Location System (RTLS) technology allow the location of specific items or people to be easily and precisely tracked. This helps medical facilities and hospitals to have one unified system for managing inventory, assets and even personnel, resulting in more productivity and budget savings.
Patient-centric healthcare is a major buzzword today, and it aligns with an overarching trend that is taking place in our society: mass customization. Over the last two decades, we’ve seen tremendous technological advancements that have drastically changed the way that most all goods and services are delivered. Goods and services are now tailored as much as possible to fit with each of our individual tastes, needs and schedules. This includes everything from entertainment (Spotify, Netflix) to food (UberEats), clothing (Stitch Fix) and now, even healthcare, where the patient is set to become the center of the care ecosystem.
When it comes to this transformation in healthcare, it is about more than just “me, me, me,” thinking. Patient-centricity is really about establishing a partnership between practitioners, patients and their families that aligns with a patient’s wants, preferences and needs, empowering them to be an active participant with control over their own healthcare experience.
This is not only something that the new generation has come to expect but also aligns with the needs of a large elderly population who are increasingly seeking home care over inpatient care. The population of adults aged 65 and older is expected to double from 37 million to 71.5 million between 2006 and 2030 and a 2018 AARP report showed that most of these adults want to grow old in their own homes and in their own communities. This could be for reasons as simple as comfort or as complex as mobility limitations. And while most of these older patients do have a primary care physician, again — it may be physically or economically challenging for them to actually go and see them every time in person. Further, the Association of American Medical Colleges estimates that the U.S. could lose as many as 100,000 doctors by 2025. This will further increase the need for efficiency in the medical field, as doctors are already in short supply, particularly in rural areas.
Data, data everywhere
To achieve the outcomes described above, an increased amount of quality data is required to truly serve each individual. While the use of electronic health records has grown in the last several years, making this data easier to access, many of us can still recall seeing doctors using written notes on a piece of paper and placing that paper into a filing cabinet. This analog data storage method has two major problems when it comes to patient-centricity; the first being that the data is not highly usable, it cannot be searched or analyzed in an efficient way, and the second being that much of the time, this data is based on what a patient remembers after sitting in the waiting room at a physician’s office. Both the quality and usability of the data can be lacking.
Further, many patients, especially younger patients, do not have a primary care physician (or a single filing cabinet of records) at all and receive medical care from several different sources such as urgent care clinics and home care providers. This fragments the patient’s health data, which not only impacts the ability for physicians to provide the best recommendations but also brings with it added hard costs.
Redundant tests, for example, may be ordered which increases the cost of care. According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, the average health organization also spends approximately $120 in labor searching for every misfiled document, and $220 for the re-creation of a document. And according to Premier Healthcare Alliance Research, a lack of interoperability in these systems costs 150,000 lives and $18.6 billion per year.