Aug 24, 2019 Last Updated 10:52 AM, Aug 14, 2019

The future of IoT in healthcare settings

Published in Healthcare
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The Internet of Things (IoT) promises to revolutionise water controls in health and care services. Marcus Judge, Director of IT at Kohler Co EMEA – which includes water controls specialist Rada – says that vision is fast becoming a reality.

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Imagine a future where when you go into hospitals, wards and operating theatres are preset to your specific medical and personal needs.

It’s a future which is incredibly efficient and where patients are receiving the best care, every time. People, devices and buildings working in symbiosis to achieve the best possible outcomes for everyone.

As a manufacturer of commercial taps and showers, we are part of delivering this vision. At Rada, our focus is on how we can efficiently improve user outcomes through the implementation of intelligent washroom technologies.

In water controls, the digital technology itself is already there and is being used. We have developed a range of digital taps and showers that offer several benefits over mechanical products. Automated functions, more accurate temperature and flow control and data logging are just some. In recent years, some facilities have networked our digital products via building management systems and are seeing the benefits of the data they derive from that.

It’s our view that connecting devices via IoT technologies and the cloud is the next step. It will open up a whole new world in terms of accurately monitoring how products and facilities are operating and identifying both efficiencies and improvements.

So, what would this look like in reality?

Water control innovation

New devices can improve the operation of health and care premises by providing actionable intelligence on areas such as infection control, water sustainability and water system usage.

Let’s consider infection control measures and the campaign to encourage hand-washing to combat Healthcare-Associated Infections (HCAIs) – a key focus for the NHS – as an example.

Currently, the success of these programmes is measured in very broad terms and over long periods. Compliance is monitored through staff questionnaires or physical observation. Success rates are measured in the reduction in the incidents of healthcare-related infections and general behavioural metrics.

IoT technologies will make regimes like this significantly more successful, not by just measuring hand-washing but also by actively tracking the success of any control programmes across different medical and care facilities. This will involve water controls and taps, of course, but also other sensors and smart devices that will monitor best practice. As new technologies are introduced, they will be able to measure adoption and identify areas of success across the health and care estate and suggest areas for improvement. Automated, autonomous devices will respond to this intelligence by being instructed to undertake cleaning functions, while staff can be given advice on measures to make further improvements.

Maintenance is a further area that can be significantly enhanced through IoT technologies. A key part of operating any facility efficiently is periodic service and maintenance. Water controls are no exception and must be checked regularly to make sure they are never out of action, resources aren’t wasted and they are delivering the experience users expect. IoT-enabled water controls will deliver live data to facilities teams about their condition, age and frequency of use. Using this data, taps and showers within a building will develop a bespoke service schedule that’s precise and cost-effective for the estates team to action.

At Rada, it’s our view that facilities teams are best placed to capitalise on the power of the IoT technologies. Estates teams are working in this data-rich environment through existing building management systems, so they are in a good position to act upon this new era of ‘smart’ data and create more dynamic and intelligent building to the benefit of all. It is this collaboration and interaction between multiple devices and people that is central to the IoT-enabled experience.

Delivering the vision

The wholesale adoption of IoT technologies across the health and care estate is at the early stages, but a number of factors are coming together that will see this accelerate.

1) The technology to connect exists and is rapidly developing, enormous investments are being made. Connectivity speeds and reliable connection, the cornerstone for IoT, is improving all the time: 4G is now standard, and the 5G roll-out in the UK starts in 2020. Narrowband-IoT, a technology specifically developed for IoT, is now being rolled out in the UK and will have a strong role to play.

2) The NHS is facing the enormous financial challenges of a growing and ageing population. Patient care, resource and cost efficiency are urgent priorities, and anything that can help achieve them is getting well-deserved consideration.

3) The Government has already earmarked IoT technologies as an area of focus across the healthcare environment. HCAIs are a serious challenge for the health service, and the NHS has set stringent targets for reducing them. IoT undoubtedly has a role to play in this life-affecting area.

At Rada, it is our belief that the conditions for IoT to be embraced in health and care facilities are here. It is only a matter of time before we start to see the wide-ranging benefits that these technologies will offer.

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