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Using IoT and data to improving safety in healthcare

19 Feb 2021

Using IoT and data to improving safety in healthcare

Across the globe, healthcare organisations are changing. The events of 2020 highlighted the urgent need for them to not just become more agile and resilient in the face of the pandemic, but also more responsive.

Without a doubt, the ability to plan effectively, implement the right technologies and create a safe environment — for both patients and healthcare staff — has never been more important.

But it’s also incredibly challenging. Especially as patient needs become more complex and difficult to manage during lockdown.

As a result, to meet expectations and overcome these challenges, healthcare organisations are undergoing rapid technological change, bringing in advanced solutions — from the use of 5G to perform remote surgery to IoT dash buttons to keep doctors and patients connected.

And these are just a few examples. Let’s take a look at how connectivity and data are helping transform healthcare.

Creating agility and responsiveness

Time is of the essence in the healthcare sector. More so than any other industry. If information or services don’t arrive where they’re needed, the consequences can be catastrophic.

The same goes for ensuring accurate and reliable communication.

With more processes being reliant on large amounts of data being transferred across networks, this will increase the use of either mobile networks like 5G or fixed networks using SD-WAN, to better manage the transfer of data.

For example, large healthcare providers, potentially with sites across different locations, could use SD-WAN to build and automatically manage capacity across its network by ensuring high priority tasks, or those requiring higher bandwidth, can be prioritised over certain connections to reduce delays in data transfer, without blocking lower bandwidth tasks.

This means that staff can easily transfer patient data securely across departments, even across sites, to get the information they need faster, improving productivity and the overall patient experience.

Giving healthcare professionals the tools they need

Connected mobile devices and secure access to patient records within hospitals, or during home visits, is essential for delivering the best patient care from anywhere.

Relying on traditional paper records can lead to confusion and delays if they can’t be found because they’ve been incorrectly filed or because parts of the records are missing. Paper documents also increase the risk of human errors when details are transferred between departments.

Allowing access to information over mobile devices ensures accuracy in information and protects patients.

In addition, by putting these records on the cloud, it ensures information is accurate across departments, hospitals and other points of care such as GP practices and everyone has access to the latest information.

In Glasgow, NHS Scotland Louisa Jordan Hospital, was set up temporarily to handle capacity due to COVID-19 and has benefited from using technology in this way.

The hospital needed to be set up quickly, with the right equipment and connections to provide staff with the same access to information available in a permanent hospital.

Working together, we have installed a network that allows up to 1,000 patients to call family and friends while in the hospital.

It’s also provided connections to other hospitals for the safe and reliable transfer of information between staff in different locations. This meant that information was always up-to-date, while maintaining high levels of data protection.

Connected devices for remote health monitoring

The pandemic has presented unique challenges to patients and healthcare providers alike.

Patients who may have required treatment for illnesses avoided visiting a hospital for fear of contracting COVID-19.

According to one Health Foundation and Ipsos Mori study, 47% of people said they felt uncomfortable visiting their local hospital during the pandemic. Also, more than three quarters (76%) were worried about being exposed to the pandemic.

Similarly, those living in care homes were isolated for safety reasons but still required on-going care.

Using IoT in the home allows healthcare workers to monitor patient health remotely. Whether this is using remote monitors and wearable devices to monitor health indicators or providing access to remote consultations.

Kinseed is one example of an organisation that was already using this kind of technology when the pandemic hit.

Working with Great Ormond Street Hospital, they’ve made it possible for doctors to remotely monitor patients in real-time while they’re travelling to the hospital in an ambulance.

This means they can proactively advise on the care being given on the journey in, but also the patient handover is more efficient as the consultants are already briefed on the situation. There is also a reduced risk of error or miscommunication.

This technology is even being applied in social care too. Through our work with Mencap, we’re helping people with physical disabilities, live more independently and hope to help those with other needs in the future too.

Using data to support planning

For patients who are unable to access remote healthcare services, the challenge becomes creating a safer environment within buildings.

This is where data-driven insights come into play.

Using Worker Insights and connected devices, hospitals can get an accurate overview of how a hospital or healthcare facility is being used. From where the majority of staff spend their time to how they move around in the building.

This kind of data can be used to plan new layouts, helping to create safer ICU areas or to make better use of spaces that are being underutilised.

Similarly, data can be used for better capacity planning, ensuring hospitals aren’t overstaffing at particular times and at risk of being understaffed at others.

This is similar to the Capacity Planning and Analysis Systems already being used by the NHS in the UK.

It is also helping with the procurement and delivery of equipment, making sure staff have the equipment they need to provide the best patient care.

Looking at a data-driven future for healthcare

Staying connected and making informed decisions based on data is a vital part of future healthcare services across the world.

Not only will it help to improve patient care and services, but it will also make life easier and safer for staff. It will reduce stress and boost productivity by making it easier for them to access the tools and information they need when they need it.

The events of 2020 showed the unexpected, severe challenges that could face health services at any time.

By building agility into processes and services using technology, they can put themselves in a greater position to react swiftly to any challenges in the future, while continuing to provide the best possible patient care.

Ready to find out more about how technology is supporting health and safety across industries?

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