How Digitization Makes Life Easier for Medical Professionals
As the Internet of Things continues to develop with the world becoming more and more connected, healthcare digitization and the Internet of Medical Things have become a major focus for IoT technology. And with good reason. Healthcare is a sector where next-generation connectivity can make a lasting difference and help society at large.
Along with the recent push in 5G technology, IoT in healthcare is the next big leap forward. Although there are challenges that software developers and engineers will need to address, the benefits that this technology affords are endless for both smart hospitals and the medical professionals who provide care.
Healthcare IoT Reduces Waiting Times
Within a hospital, time is the metric that can make or break successful treatment. It dictates the number of patients that can be admitted at a time, how many empty hospital beds or surgery rooms are available, how many doctors are on-call, and much more. It is a logistics situation that can be extremely difficult to monitor due to countless variables that can change within a moment’s notice.
Thanks to advances in IoT technology, hospital administrators now have a tool that can help them keep an eye on everything and increase efficiency. With IoT sensors, patient numbers can be kept up to date in real-time along with their location within the hospital. Empty hospital beds can also be tracked, which is necessary for keeping an ER from overflowing. Doctors can see which operating rooms are free for surgery or how many ventilators are available at any given time.
There’s also the added value of being able to track a patient’s progress and estimate when they can be discharged. Scheduling follow-up appointments and documenting patient information can be automated too, saving precious time for hospital staff. All of this automation allows smart hospitals to cut down waiting times and create a more efficient medical facility.
Mt. Sinai Medical Centre in New York City successfully implemented this kind of hospital management software to track their available beds in 2013. Over time, the medical staff has been able to reduce emergency room waiting times by over 50 percent.
Healthcare IoT Helps Coordinate Healthcare and Treatment
With so much going on in a hospital, even the best doctors and nurses can allow a patient to fall through the cracks unintentionally. This is where IoT technology can help fill the void.
With the help of IoT sensors, healthcare professionals can offer a more cohesive and coordinated approach to treatment by having all of a patient’s data gathered in one place and accessible to all necessary personnel from different departments.
A victim of a car crash can be followed from an initial surgery to physical therapy and eventual discharge from the hospital just by having the right technology in place. Doctors, nurses, and occupational therapists can have access to a patient’s medical history at all times without having to meet up. The patient’s file can also be updated in real-time as their treatment progresses.
Healthcare digitization can automate follow-ups for patients after diagnostic testing. This is especially critical for cancer patients and individuals suffering from heart disease or diabetes, where early intervention and regular follow-ups are crucial to successful treatment and preventing remission.
Healthcare IoT Allows for Better Allocation of Medical Supplies
In 2020, with the arrival of the Coronavirus pandemic, many hospitals were caught off guard by the realization that they would require more respirators. They also realized that they would need to make more efficient use of the units they already had.
This is precisely the type of logistics nightmare that healthcare IoT is meant to address. With IoT sensors strategically integrated into all forms of medical equipment, nurses can quickly locate where units are, how many are free or functional, and which patients have a more urgent need for them in the event of a shortage.
IoT sensors also allow a healthcare facility to schedule predictive maintenance on medical equipment before a breakdown occurs. The IoT network can also keep an inventory of what equipment is out of commission. Due to the nature of how this equipment is used, there is very little downtime for most machines. Having them serviced at a more convenient time can prevent slowdowns when it comes to treating patients and ensure accurate readings.
IoT Reduces Healthcare Costs
Within the public healthcare sector, cost savings are still considered the biggest advantage to implementing a new technology or system. Fortunately, IoT technology can deliver those exact reductions that hospital administrators and health officials are looking for.
These cost reductions come in the form of soft savings, where a smart hospital will be able to see continuous improvements once a system is properly integrated. These savings include reduced costs per patient, better use of medical supplies or equipment, and a reduction in unnecessary treatments or testing.
The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Magee-Women’s Hospital implemented a healthcare facility management program for pregnant women. They developed a medical device that monitored patients’ blood pressure via a cuff and smartphone app. The data would be sent to the hospital’s database, even if the patient is at home.
Many women experience some hypertension during pregnancy. The majority of them see a return to normal blood pressure levels after giving birth. However, as a precaution, many would schedule an appointment with a physician just to look into it. Thanks to the monitoring app, 57 percent of the participating patients at the University of Pittsburgh were able to skip that initial first appointment, which freed up doctors for other patients.
Healthcare IoT Pushes Medical Research by Leveraging Machine Learning
With so much data being collected in real-time, one of the greatest benefits that IoT technology can bring to a hospital facility is the ability to transform an IoT network into an autonomous, self-optimizing facility through machine learning.
Hospitals produce a lot of data. From MRI machines to patient monitors, the potential to analyze this data over time is limitless. With the help of artificial intelligence, doctors will be able to make more informed decisions in a shorter time. Not only can this make a hospital more efficient, it could potentially save lives.
Machine learning can also be helpful for research purposes. By simply collecting and analyzing patient data from emergency rooms, smart hospitals can track trends in public health such as allergy or flu seasons. Not only can this data can help in the tracking of public health concerns as well as providing research for pharmaceutical trials and medical research.
With so much data being collected, benefitting from machine learning is the next logical step for smart hospitals. This will enable future developments within the medical sector, all while continuously increasing efficiency within the hospital itself.
A multi-lingual Global Marketing & Digital Communication/Community Management specialist, mostly involved in Sales enablement & Digital transformation. Born in Morocco, grown up in France, studied in England, worked in the US, I like to consider myself as a world citizen who treasures relationship building, intellectual curiosity & learning agility.