Digital transformation continues to be a key priority for the NHS, as well as the whole healthcare sector in general. As this transformation continues, Internet of Things (IoT) is emerging as a major area for growth and investment and here our MD, Paul Timms, discusses the ways healthcare organisations are using IoT to transform service and patient experience.
Interconnected medical devices
IoT can help improve patient care through interconnected medical devices. Healthcare organisations can instantly and efficiently share information to relevant parties, whether it be doctors, nurses, family, researchers and/or regulators.
The increasing intelligence of healthcare instruments allows for a more detailed knowledge of diseases, treatment targets and biomarkers. Data can then be shared between all stakeholders to improve the patient care, as well as feeding into the long term understanding of treatment.
Historically patient monitoring has been dependant on medical staff physically carrying it out, which leads to patients being disturbed. IoT is allowing constant and non-invasive monitoring, which allows healthcare organisations to monitor data continuously, predict changes and make any necessary interventions. The result is that staff time is freed up, costs are lowered, and patients are offered a convenient service.
Healthcare organisations are increasingly adopting IoT through smarter and more integrated physical spaces. This means looking at its systems and developing a logical and effective way to marry up various systems.
The potential for smart hospitals and doctors’ surgeries is huge. As well as specific IoT enabled devices that play a role in patient care, systems could automate the temperature in rooms, or could ensure fridges are kept at optimum temperatures for storing drugs. Furthermore, organisations can monitor equipment usage and enable optimum performance, which will free up maintenance resources and can optimise budgets.
Beyond inventory control and asset tracking
IoT is often thought of in terms of monitoring where things are, and in what levels they already exist. This could be the quantity of a certain drug, or whether a certain piece of medical equipment is in stock, and then where it might be found. This type of monitoring allows for quick and easy management of stock and it also ensures the instant replenishment when stocks become low.
This is certainly a useful benefit of IoT in healthcare organisations, and organisations are now taking this a step further in replicating this approach to track patients. For example, real time location systems can be used to scan patients in to a hospital, and then record where they are.
For a patient this type of approach allows their family to know at what stage they are in their treatment, and when they will be ready to go home. This essentially can free up the time of Doctors and nurses from this type of non-clinical tasks and improve their efficiency.
Transforming the patient experience
IoT presents the healthcare sector with an enormous number of benefits, however there is always the concern around the security, privacy and ownership of data. Furthermore, there is the major challenge concerning the legacy issues of offline data, and how to digitise this to integrate with IoT processes. The NHS and private medical businesses face an ongoing period of digital transformation as they continue to navigate these issues, however when it comes to improving the patient experience in healthcare, IoT may be just what the doctor ordered.