By Warren Rosebraugh, Director, Healthcare Solution Architect at Schneider Electric
As ‘digital transformation’ becomes an increasingly important term across multiple industries, healthcare facilities are adopting digital technologies to keep up with patient needs, while rising healthcare costs are motivating them to adopt every available means to reduce those costs. Hospitals, outpatient clinics, assisted living centers, doctors’ offices and other healthcare facilities are increasingly using advanced technology to improve the service that they provide as well as impact day-to-day operations, offering new opportunities for innovation within patient care. Within healthcare, the IoT represents the frontier, the place where outer limits are being tested and tried in both facility management and patient care. IoT is also the future – the ultimate destination for an industry beset by aging facilities and rising operating costs.
So, what is IoT and how exactly is it being used in healthcare?
The IoT is the collection and exchange of data between inter-connected physical devices via internet protocol. IoT devices allow users to connect, collect critical data, analyze and then react to data based on real-time information to enhance performance and prevent losses. The “things” that make up the IoT include any physical objects that collect and exchange data over the internet, most without any type of human input. While IoT devices like the Apple Watch and Fitbit have taken off on the consumer side, more recently the business side of healthcare has begun to explore how IoT can impact facility operations and deliver better patient care.
IoT growth is global and crosses multiple business sectors, but perhaps no sector is being impacted as quickly or pervasively as healthcare. Gartner forecasts that 20.8 billion connected things will be in use by 2020, while BI Intelligence predicts that by that same year the installed base of healthcare IoT devices (excluding wearables like fitness trackers) will reach 646 million. That means that healthcare will account for 25% of the IoT market! In addition, the IDC Spending Guide forecasts worldwide spending on IoT will grow to nearly $1.3 trillion in 2019.
Increasing patient satisfaction
In health facilities, patient satisfaction is paramount and will only grow in importance as providers offer patients more choice. Through IoT, there will be new opportunities to build patient loyalty, which ultimately leads to better patient outcomes – a main driver for hospitals around the world. IoT puts a measure of control into the hands of patients through solutions such as mobile patient room control applications. For example, by using an app installed on their smart phone, patients can create their own optimal healing environment through individual control over their room temperature, lighting and window blinds rather than calling on nurses to perform these basic tasks. In turn, this frees up nurses to spend more time on clinical tasks that will improve patient care.
Patient safety presents another top concern. In healthcare facilities, uninterrupted access to power can mean the difference between life and death. Hospitals and surgical centers need constant, reliable power to feed medical devices. According to research from Schneider Electric, a one-day power loss can cost a hospital upwards of $1 million.
IoT-enabled power management solutions such as electrical panels, connected power meters and power monitoring software can ensure reliable electrical power to critical areas, identify potential issues before a failure occurs, reduce operating theater downtime and automatically test emergency power supply systems.
Reducing costs without reducing service
Like so many other sectors, healthcare facilities face the need to do more with less. Their operating costs continue to rise, while budgets decline. Rising healthcare costs put added pressure on hospitals to reduce their expenses. Energy efficiency is a hidden opportunity to help health facilities reduce operating costs and improve their financial health.
Aging facilities compound the problem of energy costs, as existing hospitals don’t have the luxury of ripping and replacing outdated infrastructure. In the U.S., most hospitals are more than 30 years old. In the UK, that age rises significantly. Many aging facilities are not equipped with the right infrastructure to support energy and business efficiency. However, IoT technology can help these facilities keep legacy systems while identifying new opportunities for cost reduction. By using cloud-based, automated building analytics and diagnostics software, hospitals can benefit from predictive maintenance and identify savings opportunities and prioritize those with the greatest impact for the least investment. This type of software is so intelligent it can predict how much a health facility can save by implementing a specific energy conservation measure or performing maintenance on a particular asset.
According to Deloitte, a smart building can save upwards of $18 million in operating expenses over a traditional, non IoT-enabled building.
Healthcare organizations need a single, future-ready building management system (BMS) solution that makes their facilities safe, comfortable and efficient. The BMS needs to be scalable, open, flexible and act as the IP backbone to connect energy, automation and software.
Acting as the hospital’s digital hub, an intelligent BMS links critical systems across the enterprise so data can be collected, analyzed and managed to optimize operational performance while driving 30-40 percent more energy efficiency, as well as comfort and safety for all. An IoT-enabled BMS takes a hybrid approach and uses the cloud or is hosted on-premise. In essence, the BMS uses IoT to network systems that may not have been connected before, like lighting, HVAC, security and access control, as well as connected devices such as valves, actuators, sensors and meters.
Looking to the future
Other industries may be able to turn to cost-cutting techniques such as reducing staff or services, but in healthcare, this is often impossible without lowering the availability of service.
Through the use of IoT, healthcare organizations can make facility, asset and energy management easier and provide the same levels of, or improved, service with reduced budgets. Through providing better patient outcomes, improved asset use, reduced energy consumption, no operating room downtime and easily shared information through IoT, hospitals can step into the future of care delivery.
Healthcare Solution Architect