By Guy Yehiav, president, SmartSense by Digi.
Amid widespread staffing shortages across the healthcare sector, the need for IoT-enabled digital transformation in hospitals and patient care facilities is increasingly clear. For the first time since 2004, a lack of staffing has overtaken financial volatility as the No. 1 concern among healthcare CEOs in the American College of Healthcare Executives’ annual survey.
Meanwhile, from canceled appointments to delayed surgeries, more than half of all U.S. patients report reductions in care quality due to personnel shortages. The problem is even further magnified in rural areas, with rural-based primary healthcare professionals ranking care quality as a greater concern than access to care within their communities.
With that said, healthcare providers should get proactive about leveraging digital adoption to “do more with less” and ensure quality care despite their staffing challenges. There’s no better place to start than with IoT Sensing-as-a-Service. Beyond supporting product efficacy and asset protection, the IoT SaaS framework can be a critical workforce empowerment tool that helps improve therapeutic outcomes for patients. Why? Because in addition to eliminating elongated and error-prone manual compliance procedures, it also provides digital task management capabilities with automated prescriptive insights that enable healthcare employees to streamline workflows and enhance operational efficiency.
What Exactly is IoT Sensing as a Service??
IoT SaaS is the interconnected use of remote IoT sensing and monitoring tools with AI-powered prescriptive analytics – essentially an enhanced version of traditional IoT sensing and monitoring technology that empowers healthcare facilities to collect, analyze and act on inventory performance data for compliance and patient safety. The IoT sensors are placed on medical assets, as well as inside of freezers and refrigerators where vaccines and medications are stored, and perform real-time monitoring of those assets to track and trace location and confirm compliance. Fully operable with Bluetooth, the sensors do not need to be added to the hospital’s IT infrastructure. These easy to deploy sensors can sense anything from CO2, O2 levels, humidity and temperature to current consumption and noise.
Furthermore, the sensors measure asset performance, automating the detection and prediction of maintenance issues that could lead to a future excursion. The raw data collected by each sensor flows through a continuous feedback loop via the prescriptive analytics system, which provides actionable insights to operations teams so they can take the necessary steps to ensure all assets are fully functional and in good condition.
Maximizing Operational Efficiency
The impact of inefficiency can be a matter of life and death when patient care is involved. After all, you don’t need to be a nurse to understand that time is of the essence on a hospital floor. Whether it’s performing point-of-care testing and tending to ad-hoc patient needs or preparing operating rooms with the right medical devices for surgery, hospital employees are constantly moving from one task to the next with little time to rest – or even think – in between. IoT SaaS removes ambiguity from the equation by automating asset management and digitizing task management, simplifying the critical supply chain of healthcare. For example:
- Instead of wasting valuable time searching for a missing heart monitor that wasn’t stored in the right place, a physician’s assistant can identify its location within seconds using IoT’s tracking and tracing capabilities.
- A team of nurses, unexpectedly needing to transport a patient to another wing of the hospital for emergency surgery, can leverage IoT-enabled real time visibility to find a vacant bed on the fly and avoid life-threatening delays.
- With an IoT-powered digital task management dashboard, an operations manager responsible for maintaining 30 different MRI machines no longer needs to rely on manual spreadsheets or memory to determine which machines are due for inspection.
These are real-life scenarios that occur daily within hospitals, especially those located in rural and low-resourced settings. By integrating interconnected IoT SaaS solutions into the equation, the operational efficiency of the entire facility is enhanced regardless of staff levels, in turn promoting higher levels of patient care.
Streamlining Compliance Procedures
The complexities of federal healthcare compliance will only continue to grow as more vaccines, medications, and regulations are introduced to the market. However, with the integrated adoption of IoT SaaS, healthcare providers can simplify the compliance process with automated reporting and alerts. Take the COVID-19 and Monkeypox vaccines for example, which must be stored in strict temperature settings in order to maintain their efficacy. With the right IoT sensing tools that automate environmental monitoring, employees can quickly and efficiently confirm that the vaccines were kept within the optimal temperature range at all times. And without having to log that information manually, they can then shift their focus to tasks that have a more direct impact on patient care.
Rite Aid is a perfect example of a healthcare-related enterprise that leverages IoT SaaS to improve compliance management through remote monitoring and automated reporting in real-time. The national drugstore chain deploys IoT technology in more than 2,400 of its U.S. locations to monitor medication efficacy, improve patient safety and reduce product loss. By embracing the power of IoT SaaS, the company was able to:
- Significantly reduce the effort required to maintain compliance and improve documentation of proper storage temperatures
- Respond immediately and proactively to temperature excursions
- Guarantee medication viability and safety, leading to improved customer safety and reduced product loss
With demand for quality care showing no signs of slowing down, now is a critical time for hospitals and patient care facilities to unlock the power of IoT adoption for a brighter and more healthy future. While you can’t always control your circumstances, what you can control is how you react to them. For alleviating healthcare’s staffing challenges, embracing digital transformation should be step No. 1.