How Condition Monitoring is bringing IoT to Healthcare
Condition Monitoring, powered by BLE, is enabling the healthcare industry to provide more timely, higher-quality treatment in a growing time of need.
As populations grow, so too do the number of people in need of medical services. Over centuries, innovations in the medical field have saved countless lives and dramatically improved mankind’s odds of survival in spite of illness and disease. Condition monitoring, or leveraging real-time data on position and environmental conditions using BLE sensors, will advance healthcare forward once more in new and remarkably simple ways.
Ageing population and sensor-based applications
According to a report by the Population Reference Bureau, the number of Americans over 65 is projected to double from 46 to an astounding 98 million by 2060. A number of pressing questions come to mind when reflecting on this future scenario:
- “How will this be financed?”
- “How are governments preparing for this?”
- “What areas should we focus on improving first?”
- “What innovations in technology can we expect to see?”
- “Will my kids put me in a nursing home?”
The European Union has referred to the rise of IoT in healthcare as “Smart Health.” In their 2015 report on Smart Health, they mention that the EU and the US are prioritizing investments in technology that will support the healthcare industry with new, innovative solutions. Venture capital is also investing billions in health-related startups with the hopes of transforming the healthcare sector beyond recognition over the coming years.
What are these technologies that governments and the market alike are betting on (and possibly praying for)? Well, sensor-based applications are some of the biggest. By capturing real-time temperature, acceleration, humidity, and ambient light data, many major challenges in the healthcare industry are being effectively addressed. Solutions that use temperature and other environmental data can be referred to as condition monitoring.
Applications of Condition Monitoring in Healthcare
Condition monitoring is IoT in the context of Healthcare. Like other instances of IoT, condition monitoring uses sensors embedded in Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) tags or smartphones, equipped to people or assets, and transmits data on position or environmental conditions to decision makers through a cloud-based or on-premise solution.
Different ways condition monitoring can be applied to healthcare include Cold Chain Logistics, Replenishment, and Patient / Worker monitoring. We’ve already compared technologies like BLE, RFiD and WiFi at length before (here, here, here, and here!) and found that BLE is the most realistic path forward based on factors like cost, interoperability, and overall simplicity.
Cold Chain Logistics
It’s probably no surprise that temperature and various environmental factors influence the effectiveness of medicine and other pharmaceutical drugs. Much like fresh food, exposure to suboptimal conditions can cause medicine to spoil and the person to become sick.
Cold Chain Logistics is a specialized form of logistics that ensures the proper handling and delivery of temperature-sensitive goods. These refrigerators on wheels need to make sure that storage conditions remain between 2°C and 8°C (36°F-46°F) for most products.
This puts considerable responsibility on the transporters to keep the temperature within range since just a few degrees difference could have serious consequences for the recipients and the parties responsible.
Monitoring temperature with BLE
The process of logging and sharing data among stakeholders has traditionally been time-consuming and cumbersome. Temperature loggers would need to be plugged in via USB and a spreadsheet generated and manually sent. An unfortunate caveat is that most of the data is in fact never shared and simply archived, never to be used again.
Then BLE arrived.
Condition monitoring solutions that use BLE-solutions to log temperature data can upload it to the cloud in real-time. This is a game-changer for process efficiency and quality assurance. Uploading and sharing the data becomes automated thereby allowing every bit of data captured to be received and analyzed for future improvement. If at any time the temperature begins to diverge from the normal, alerts are instantly sent and relevant parties notified of the occurence.
A recent report from Temperature Controlled Logistics surveyed industry stakeholders across the cold transport value chain and revealed the importance they placed on the ability to visualize temperature data in a cloud-based dashboard in the future. BLE-based condition monitoring solutions are solving this challenge today in a simplified way.
People Monitoring and Asset Tracking in Healthcare
Doctors, nurses and caregivers throughout the healthcare industry are regularly exposed to some of the most difficult states of the human condition. A troubling truth about many healthcare facilities is the overworked and understaffed predicament they have slowly found themselves in over the last 30 years. An article published in Scientific American investigates how the quality of care and efficiency of the workforce has been degrading because of it in a very interesting way.
While this is troubling, there is always hope. Condition monitoring is one way healthcare facilities can increase safety, quality and efficiency without incurring major costs. BLE tags equipped to staff or patients enable a wide array of use cases that optimize time and care while in a healthcare facility or at home.
The same logic of tracking and monitoring, like in Cold Chain, applies to assets in healthcare facilities too. Tracking position and monitoring environmental conditions can reduce search times, improve asset utilization, maintenance practice, and extend product lifetimes.
Another useful application of condition monitoring in healthcare is automating the replenishment of goods.
The way this works is pretty simple: the user presses a dedicated button for a specific good when its running low. This triggers a notification to the party responsible for verifying and placing the order! Automation made simple.
This ability to automate the order process of medicine, equipment or sanitary goods with the click of a button allows caregivers a quick and easy way to signal for more product when they need it. Time that would otherwise be spent managing inventory can now be used to provide care.
Other added benefits include Improvements in capital allocation and a more transparent inventory management system for all stakeholders.
Work with the experts
The variety of applications BLE-based condition monitoring solutions can provide is growing by the day. That’s because companies like Kontakt.io are working closely with industry leaders and end-customers to develop end-to-end solution modules that answer some of the toughest challenges modern healthcare is facing.
Remember, much of the infrastructure required for a condition monitoring solution might already be in place, so get in touch with our team to determine the next steps in your path to deploying enterprise-grade IoT solutions.