The Covid-19 pandemic has stretched hospitals to breaking point. In July, ambulances were waiting up to 10 hours to deliver patients to emergency rooms in Hidalgo County, Texas, and by October intensive care beds were at more than 70 percent capacity in 19 states.
But the crisis response has also spurred innovation. The need to maintain social distancing and make the best possible use of over-burdened staff has accelerated the digital transformation that was already underway.
Telemedicine, which had been growing slowly, increased by 154 percent in the US between January and March 2020. The Boston Medical Center used personalized, automated calls and messages to remind more than 400,000 patients of everything from how to refill prescriptions remotely to which Covid-safe procedures to follow before an appointment.
These are steps on the way to fully smart hospitals, employing technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), robotics and location technology to deliver better patient experiences, improve outcomes and control costs. According to McKinsey analysts, smart hospitals could help cut annual national healthcare expenditures by more than 10 percent, but the majority of US hospitals are lagging behind a few early adopters.
Finding the way
Smart hospitals can use the Internet of Things to enable location-based services and analytics. These include digital wayfinding and asset tracking, both of which can be enormously beneficial for safety and efficiency.
At UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital, for example, Pointr’s Deep Location® technology is used to help patients find their way around what is the largest academic health center in the region. Patients who get lost may miss appointments or arrive feeling stressed, which can affect their experience and cause delays for others. Worse, they could spread an infection, or even contract one, by wandering into the wrong areas.
All from the one app, hospitals can now guide patients from home to their appointment, helping them find the closest available parking space when they arrive, then giving turn-by-turn directions to the appropriate care room. With Pointr’s technology, the hospital app automatically chooses whether to use GPS or indoor positioning technology to provide a seamless transition between outdoor and indoor areas. The app can guide patients away from quarantine areas, let them tell doctors if they will be late and notify staff when they arrive using location-based notifications, powered by geofencing technology.
If finding patients is a challenge, finding equipment can be worse. One study suggests that nursing staff waste an hour per shift trying to find equipment. This is time consuming, expensive and, of course, can be dangerous in an emergency. In 2015, the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in California reported that equipment worth more than $11 million was missing.
In a smart hospital, equipment such as ultrasound machines, concentrators, mobile hoists and other assets, are fitted with a Bluetooth tag so that staff can see where they are on a live dashboard. When a nurse takes a new shift, they can immediately see where the relevant equipment is and even whether it has been disinfected ready for the next use.
The real power comes from analyzing all this data to make evidence-based decisions. Location-based analytics can identify the busiest parts of the hospital and determine whether rooms are being used efficiently, they can monitor cleaning and how long people spend in each area, and they can identify bottlenecks.
This is especially important while hospitals are dealing with the threat of Covid-19 because bottlenecks and high-traffic parts of the building are where the virus could spread. Patients who don’t get lost will spend less time in corridors and fewer staff will be needed around the building to help them find their way - all beneficial to stopping the spread of the virus within hospitals.
When hospitals are as stretched as they have been during Covid-19, it’s also vital to ensure that rooms and equipment are being used efficiently. Now more than ever, hospitals must get smart.
Unlock your Smart Hospital with Pointr
The future of digital healthcare is happening now. With Pointr’s technology, hospitals can connect patients, staff and their healthcare ecosystem for an optimized patient experience and better operations. Get in touch with our team today to get a demo of our technology.