IOT focuses hospitals on safer care for patients

Internet of Things technologies are put to use in the healthcare sector, to provide more efficient care and to eliminate human error.

Tags: HealthcareInternet of ThingsZebra Technologies Corporation
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IOT focuses hospitals on safer care for patients IoT solutions can not only improve patient care and safety, they can also deliver operating efficiency, and leadership and innovation, says Riout.
By  Franck Riout Published  March 29, 2015

Patient-centered care and safety is every hospital’s number one priority and accurate patient identification is fundamental to achieving this. Internet of Things (IoT) technology can help increase patient safety from admission to laboratory, operating theatre, pharmacy and beyond by making patients more clearly visible within the hospital.

Healthcare technology solutions can help hospitals, healthcare organisations and laboratories in the UAE reduce or eliminate human error and increase overall productivity, whilst meeting the standards for patient safety set by healthcare regulators and international accreditation bodies. Beyond patient safety, IoT can help increase quality and efficiency right across the hospital operations.

As the Middle East healthcare landscape develops and the regulatory environment changes rapidly, the challenge to healthcare providers is to increase efficiency to manage costs, whilst improving the quality of care and keeping patients safe. Part of the solution lies in the Internet of Things (IoT) and the real-time visibility of vital information relating to patient records, specimens, medications, and supply inventories.

In simple terms, IoT refers to smart interconnected devices that provide more visibility into a hospital’s operations — devices can include patient wristbands and mobile bar code scanners. In order to provide the best quality patient care, hospital staff need to allocate more of their time to patient care rather than administration and managing supplies. With mobile devices and comprehensive electronic medical records stored on RFID tags, clinicians can spend less time on potentially needless testing and more time focusing on the patient — collecting specimens, administering medication and monitoring vital signs. With existing solutions and devices such as patient wristbands and mobile bar code scanners, the data generated helps ensure that proper medication doses are given to the right patients at the right time, for example.

Technology solutions will help the UAE healthcare sector meet international patient safety and industry standards. By 2020, only accredited public and private healthcare providers will be allowed to operate in the UAE, according to the UAE National Agenda. Accreditation to international standards is central to the Agenda and medical facilities that do not reach the required accreditation will not be allowed to operate in the UAE after 2021.

Eliminating hospital errors in patient identification, treatment administering, medication dispensing, and blood and specimen labelling, is a fundamental requirement to ensure the safety of patients. In 2004/5 alone, the UK’s NHS (National Health Service) faced over £400 million worth of clinical negligence claims — one of the key causes being patient misidentification. The National Patient Safety Agency states that this causes 19% of all hospital errors. The UK Government estimates that errors associated with mistaken identity cost the NHS approximately £2 billion in extra bed days.

These solutions and systems are already in use in some of the UAE hospitals across a range of operations from patient admission desk to the bedside, as well as the medical laboratory and hospital pharmacy. Hospitals print critical information such as dosage information and prescription labels, bedside sample collection, patient ID wristbands and staff ID cards. These solutions help hospitals ensure that adult, paediatric and infant patients are accurately identified throughout their hospital stay and enable immediate access to critical patient information at the bedside and across all hospital departments.

Through enabling technologies such as IoT and RFID, hospitals can integrate a range of technology solutions into a rapidly evolving cloud-based wireless world with an ever increasing number of smart, mobile devices.

Even the ubiquitous bar code, which has been around for decades, will continue to play an important role in a connected world. The key is establishing the necessary connections and then harnessing the information. As organisations implement IoT technologies, flexible and scalable infrastructure and frameworks can support a wide range of technologies, like electronic health records (EHRs) and radio frequency identification (RFID) tags that allow healthcare staff to harness data from patient wristbands to diagnostic test results — enhancing efficiency and accuracy.

However, the actionable insight into a hospital’s operations and processes is what provides organisations with the real intelligence they need to make significant and fundamental improvements in organisational efficiencies and effectiveness.

This actionable insight is gained through a set of enabling technologies in the areas of cloud, mobile and Big Data. With the right IoT solution in place, healthcare organisations can benefit from improved Intelligence in two vital areas beyond the patient care and safety that we have already seen - hospital operating efficiency, and leadership and innovation.

Most healthcare organisations would agree that their operations need to improve efficiency. When it comes to medical inventories specifically, many hospitals overstock certain inventories to prevent ‘running out’ during an emergency but cannot anticipate what might be needed and when. With connected mobile devices designed to capture real-time data, healthcare organisations can keep better track of their stock levels.

With an IoT solution that provides ‘asset intelligence’, healthcare organisations can gain access to the information they need to improve patient experiences and outcomes. By using information — or intelligence — to support improvements in patient care, hospitals in the UAE can set new standards of care, improving the quality and safety of care, along with performance and innovation.

Franck Riout is vertical marketing manager, Healthcare, EMEA, Zebra Technologies.

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