IoT – Improving Patient Safety

February 6, 2020
IoT – Improving Patient Safety

How IoT is improving patient safety

The healthcare sector continues to evolve to meet the changing needs of patients and industry stakeholders. Technology is the biggest catalyst of change, with key advances in equipment and data access having a profound effect on how the industry functions. The Internet of Things (IoT) adds online connectivity to physical objects, with medical equipment increasingly connected to reduce costs, improve patient safety, and enhance health outcomes.

The growth of IoT technology has been fast and furious over the past few years, with the tech now adopted by fields such as retail, transportation, agriculture, and smart home devices just to name a few. Critical advances in technology and consumer products have merged in the healthcare sector, where the increased adoption of smart devices and wearable technology has improved patient safety across the board.

How does IoT work?

From the tracking of medical devices and objects, through to the identification and authentication of staff and patients, IoT combines automatic data collection with physical object sensing and control. For example, IoT can be used to provide nurses with real-time access to patient vitals. It can also be used to record and analyze hygiene standards inside a hospital, automate workflows, and improve healthcare outcomes through the analysis of remote data.

When this technology is implemented across the healthcare sector, it enables positive new outcomes while managing the safety standards and costs associated with existing healthcare solutions. The use of this technology has particular benefits for patient safety, both inside the hospital and at home. Let’s take a look at three key ways IoT is improving patient safety:

1. Drug surveillance and adverse event reporting in hospital

The healthcare sector can be a complex and confusing place, with rules, regulations, and working budgets affecting every aspect of patient management. Despite efforts to minimize errors, mistakes can and do happen in this environment. Integrated IoT devices and platforms are a great resource when it comes to the reporting and analysis of adverse events, both in hospital and once the patient goes home.

With regard to in-patients, IoT makes it much easier for hospitals to avoid errors and recognize issues immediately when they do occur. Like any industry, healthcare providers need to reduce errors, mitigate risks where necessary, and predict adverse events as early as possible. Via devices in the room, built into the bed, or integrated into wearable tech, IoT protects patient safety, and enables real-time access to patient information.

2. Patient monitoring at home

For out-patients, IoT can be used to monitor and analyze patient information. While home devices are unable to provide the same level of integration as IoT in hospitals, medical wearables and even smartphones can be valuable in collecting data and providing feedback. For example, mobile apps can prompt patients with medication and diabetes control reminders, and wireless medical devices make it easy to monitor blood pressure, heart rate, and other data from any location.

Home monitoring has become especially popular for chronic disease management, with IoT devices providing patients with frequent supervision without the need for expensive in-patient care. When simple medical devices are combined with patient-specific data, medical practitioners can establish monitoring and alarm systems that improve safety standards, and that function as required wherever they are located.

3. Smart hospitals and automated workflows

IoT technology is not only used by patients. Hospitals and medical practitioners also benefit from automated workflows and enhanced hygiene monitoring. As access to data and technology improves, hospitals increasingly rely on connectivity and control mechanisms to automate important workflow practices.

Workflow automation helps to minimize surgical errors, configure patient records, and improve appointment standards among other benefits. IoT devices can also be used to monitor hygiene standards in a hospital setting. While it might sound simple, connecting hand hygiene monitoring stations can greatly reduce the number of infections from conditions acquired in hospital.

From smart beds that measure patient activity, through to surgical AI robots and automated record keeping, IoT helps to highlight relevant patient information and connect related healthcare systems. While automating medical systems is not without its risks, the clever adoption of  connected technology solutions can also free up medical practitioners to focus on more critical tasks.