With the enactment of HITECH almost ten years ago, healthcare has experienced intense change in technology use, mainly in electronic health records (EHR). And, while healthcare professionals feel they’re reeling from this zero-to-fifty adoption, there is much more technology can offer to improve the patient experience.
Linking both objects and people, the Internet of Things (IoT) is beginning to positively impact patient engagement and satisfaction. Here are three ways your healthcare organization can use IoT to gain a competitive advantage in your market.
Stay in touch: Remote patient monitoring
The use of electronics to facilitate patient care and the flow of essential medical data is the most widely used example of IoT in healthcare today. Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) devices collect medical information like vital statistics, medication adherence and even sleep breathing patterns.
Sleep apnea is a problem for an estimated 22 million Americans. In the past, diagnosing the condition meant a night in a sleep lab for the patient, an uncomfortable and artificial environment. Now, new technology enables patients to collect this same data while sleeping in their own bed. An RPM device can capture information like vital signs and sleep activity and transmit the information to healthcare providers, who can then direct patient care.
RPM devices also increase patient engagement. When patients are directly involved in tracking their medical statistics, it creates a mindfulness about their health and improves compliance.
Another benefit is that RPM technology can connect with other systems, like EHR, moving data seamlessly via the cloud and eliminating the need for staff to manually enter the information.
Let’s connect: Communications via smart devices
Healthcare consumers are using their smart devices – such as phones and wearable technology – to communicate in the rest of their lives, so they’ve come to desire and expect it in their communications with healthcare providers. They want to save time and reduce the stress and confusion of using large healthcare systems, with facilities that stretch over city blocks.
Kaleida Health System in Buffalo, NY is using IoT to provide key information to patients. Their smartphone app gives current ER wait times, helps patients find their way in the hospital and even identifies the nearest open parking space to their appointment location. In addition, the app connects patients to their EHR, sends appointment reminders and provides information about locations, services and healthcare staff. As a result, Kaleida has seen a large increase in patient satisfaction.
Keep track: Real-time location technology
A family sits anxiously awaiting news of their loved one who is undergoing surgery. Fortunately for them, the patient is wearing a sensor badge that tracks where he is in the process. As they sit in the waiting room, the family can see on a monitor when the patient goes into post-op recovery and when he is moved to his hospital room. Likewise, staff can see the patient’s status and prepare for his arrival on the floor.
All of this is possible using real-time location (RTL) services. Small IoT sensors are attached to both people and medical equipment. For example, an Alzheimer’s patient wears a geo-spatial location badge that tracks her location at any time. If she wanders out of the nursing facility’s geo-fence, an alarm goes off and staff is immediately notified. Or, a hospital bed contains a sensor that alerts nursing staff if a patient falls out of bed.
Use of RTL devices results in a smoother clinical workflow, more efficient use of resources and better communications with patients and their families, all of which moves the needle up on patient satisfaction.
IoT: Now is the time
Healthcare providers and payers around the world have dramatically increased their usage of IoT devices. In Accenture’s Digital Health Technology Vision 2018 report, 77 percent of the health executives surveyed said they plan to invest in IoT this coming year.
The driving force at present is often more efficient use of medical resources and staffing. But, the opportunity to improve the patient experience is huge. Patients want and expect these technological advances, and they will go to the healthcare organizations who provide them.