Why IoT will become critical for healthcare

The pandemic has shown us that natural calamities and diseases can upend life as we know it, at any point. This means that healthcare has to become a lot more organised—and the Internet of Things can help optimise hospital asset management, ambulance tracking, patient monitoring and more

Karen Ravindranath
Updated: Jul 1, 2020 05:17:23 PM UTC

Karen Ravindranath is Director, WebNMS – The IoT division of Zoho Corp

Image: Shutterstock

The global outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic has reiterated that natural calamities and epidemics are bound to occur and cause uncertainty in operations in many segments, especially in healthcare. We have to provide favourable medical infrastructure for healthcare systems to perform seamlessly.

Every challenge brings in change
When there is a health crisis, hospitals and health centres become a crucial resource and witness unusual demand. Infrastructure that is required to function round-the-clock, demands a robust system for monitoring and managing it. The scope and scale of hospital ‘assets’ is both vast and heterogeneous, and can be classified into Active Assets (the vital medical care equipment) and Passive Assets (support hospital infrastructure and amenities).

A large section of hospitals today have minimal or no software in place to manage infrastructure and assets. Even bigger hospitals that have hospital management software (HMS) software for patient management, still lack solutions to address the asset and maintenance concerns.

Improve patient experience and drive patient-centred care
Leveraging digital technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT) can provide patients and doctors a clean environment by ensuring 24x7 asset uptime, availability, active control rooms, optimal usage and timely maintenance of assets. The central idea is monitoring asset health of active and passive assets, measuring energy utilisation and proactively planning the maintenance—these are important factors that can tangibly impact the productivity of a hospital.

An IoT-based unified Remote Asset Management solution can be a panacea for challenges faced by hospitals by improving the operational efficiency of healthcare facilities by controlling surging costs and improving patient experience. With its integrated capabilities, facility managers can ensure preventive maintenance to reduce asset breakdowns, resolve issues and avoid any impact on occupants.

A comprehensive remote asset management solution will impart intelligence to assets/sites with reduced workforce and top-notch features. A few of the classic remote asset monitoring use cases are:

Heating, Ventilation & Air-Condition (HVAC):
A hospital's HVAC systems play a critical role in mitigating the spread of diseases like Covid-19, MERS, SARS, and tuberculosis. The solution can centrally monitor temperature, humidity, supply/exit vent air, pressure, door sensor, etc. With the monitored data, the operations team can verify optimal ranges and check whether the sensors are calibrated and working, make air changes every hour, maintain air-flow, monitor personnel entry or exit and so on. The solution also helps in providing a better patient experience and can better handle the influx of patients and address isolation requirements easily.

Hospital asset tracking & maintenance
Vital equipment is often misplaced in a busy hospital; caregivers spend up to 20 percent of their time tracking availability of cost-intensive equipment, which makes automated track and trace essential. The asset tracking solution leverages IoT intelligence to give real-time visibility into the location, status, utilisation and maintenance of all medical equipment. Data flows into reports that can be sorted by unit, department, facility, etc. for analysis and reporting. This allows making informed purchase decisions of hospital assets.

Energy management in hospitals
Energy consumption is high in hospitals as they function around the clock and use energy-intensive critical assets. IoT-enabled energy management solutions connect energy meters and assets such as lighting, DG, inverter/UPS etc., and meticulously acquire energy data to monitor floor/asset/building wise energy consumption and so on. This will help improve utilisation, cost, predicting maintenance needs and will increase the reliability of energy assets.

Ambulance vehicle tracking and monitoring
With increasing traffic on the roads, ambulances face a tough task in taking patients to hospitals on time, leading to fatality in many cases. An IoT fleet management system helps connect ambulances to hospitals and focuses on making ambulances available to patients in the shortest possible time. The GPS-tracking system helps in route optimisation and geo-fencing. The solution can also track driver behaviour, vehicle idling, Estimated Time of Arrival (ETA), etc. This helps in better management and accountability of ambulance operations.

IoT-enabled remote asset management is a shift from the traditional approach that is tedious, time-consuming and expensive. It is also remarkable that IoT is getting established with the wide adoption of connected assets in the health care industry. Health care leaders see the potential to improve operational efficiency, as well as safety and satisfaction for patients. Being prepared to harness this digital transformation would prove to be the differentiator in the increasingly connected world.

The writer is Director, WebNMS – The IoT division of Zoho Corp

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The thoughts and opinions shared here are of the author.

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