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Amid hard times faced by hospitals, IoT can help

Amid hard times faced by hospitals, IoT can help
Hospitals worldwide are facing various difficulties and challenges, including a nursing and staff shortage. This means doctors, nurses and staff are faced with more work as demands for healthcare rise. Increasingly, hospitals turn to connected devices, which form an “Internet of Health Things” that can help operators improve operational efficiency and patient care.
The nursing shortage facing hospitals has become a serious issue. Citing the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Atlantic reported that 1.2 million vacancies will emerge for registered nurses between 2014 and 2022. Such shortage brings negative consequences to hospitals.
“Beyond the effects of policy and regulatory changes, hospitals face growing pressure to increase labor productivity in an effort to begin bending the cost curve. For example, there is pressure to reduce costs and improve quality from changing pay structures, while at the same time workforce shortages are creating challenges for hospitals trying to meet industry growth and demand,” said Brian Kalis, Managing Director of Digital Health and Innovation at Accenture
“One of the biggest challenges that hospital operators are facing is overcrowding – hospitals are becoming fuller with more and more patients needing extended stays and long-term monitoring of their condition. This is stretching the healthcare workforce as they need to care for a larger number of patients,” said Stephanie Lawrence, Research Analyst at ABI Research.
Today, connected devices that form the Internet of Things can help healthcare facilities in this regard, making them more efficient, responsive to patient needs, secure and energy-saving. “IoT technologies and networked sensors can be implemented to tackle some of the most common problems weighing down on hospitals and health systems. By introducing more connectivity, remote monitoring and information gathering, Internet of Health Things (IoHT) can encourage better use of healthcare resources, more informed decisions, a reduction in inefficiencies or waste and the empowerment of health consumers,” Kalis said.
One way hospitals can benefit from this Internet of Health Things is improved operational efficiency, enabling staff to do more with less. “Wearable devices give healthcare professionals the ability to monitor the health of a number of patients at the same time, whilst still completing other tasks. This improves their efficiency as they are not required to check each individual’s healthcare vitals periodically throughout the day,” Lawrence said.
There are a variety of sensors that are already in use in hospitals, many of which can be found in a typical patient room. “Temperature sensors are in thermometers to record body temperature. Pulse oximeters monitor blood-oxygen levels. There are sensors for detecting heart rate, respiratory rate, and other physiological monitoring,” said Patrick Ng, VP of Business Development and Clinical Operations at MedicusTek.
Ng’s company offers various solutions that can help hospitals meet their efficiency improvement needs, ensuring that staff and resources are used most effectively. “Our technology allows caregivers to provide just-in-time care before a patient safety incident occurs. Current bed alarm systems usually are triggered when the patient is leaving the bed or is already out of the bed. As a result, nurses often have insufficient time to intercept a bed fall. Our IoT/sensors are able to provide nurses with an actionable response time to intercept potential falls. By using sensors, hospitals do not need sitters (people who sit in patient rooms to ensure they don’t fall out of bed) and can better utilize their staffing and resources,” Ng said.
Regarding pressure injuries, IoT can also help free up nursing time using sensors and analytics. “Nurses reposition patient about every two hours to prevent pressure ulcers. These efforts can be time intensive. Our system continuously monitors for unrelieved pressure between the patient and the bed,”Ng said. “If a patient moves and successfully repositions themselves, the two-hour timer can be reset and nurses can concentrate on taking care of the patient in other ways. However, when a nurse does need to reposition a patient, they can look on a screen that visually maps the pressure accumulated between the patient’s body and the sensors. Nurses can reference this map to see if repositioning a patient has properly relieved the pressure.”
Finally, a valuable asset in the age of IoT is data, which can also help with hospital workflow efficiency. “Our system tracks when and how often each alert is triggered, and how long it took for nursing staff to respond to the alerts. The system also tracks when each patient is repositioned. This increases accountability in the nursing workflow, and can inform management on staffing quality and levels. Our data analysis generates regular reports that can be referenced in making decisions about hospital operations and staffing,” Ng said.

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