November 9, 2018

Improving Patient Safety Through IoT

Written by Garret Weigel | Pharmacy Safety

Healthcare is complicated for the simple reason that people are complicated. Every human is unique, and the problems they experience that lead to hospitalization are in no way trivial. This puts enormous pressure on healthcare providers to ensure safety for their patients. There is an opportunity for improvement in every aspect of health care; from the operating table to prescribing medication post-op, mistakes are made, and unfortunately, lives are lost. More lives, in fact, than the deaths attributed to motor vehicle accidents, breast cancer, or AIDS.


In addition to lives lost, national costs associated with preventable, adverse medical events cost more than $20 billion per year. Investing in patient safety can significantly reduce these costs, leading to lives saved and fewer wasted dollars. This is a serious problem, and while there is no one solution for eliminating preventable patient deaths, there are ways to reduce adverse medical events through IoT.


Association Of Errors Or Near Errors With The Number Of Hours Worked Per Week By Nurses



Exhibit 4 outlines findings that risks of making medical errors were significantly for longer shifts. Reducing clinician responsibilities can lead to fewer mistakes. Fewer mistakes lead to better patient outcomes. IoT is well poised to reduce the time that clinicians spend away from their patients, leading to better patient safety.


Compliance Management Burdens

Compliance management takes precious time away from face-to-face time with patients. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) requires continuous temperature monitoring in order to ensure the efficacy of vaccines, as part of their Vaccines for Children Program (VFC). Additionally, the CDC requires assessment and recording of temperature data for units that store vaccinations. These requirements are necessary to ensure that the VFC program is effective; without proper temperature controls, vaccinations could lose their effectiveness, rending the program fruitless.


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The mandates as outlined by the CDC are time-consuming, nevertheless important steps in keeping the population free of disease. The burden from these responsibilities can be automated and simplified through IoT devices that capture temperature information and create reports based on that information. Wirefree devices record temperatures extraordinarily accurately and are not subject to mistakes from human-error. Automated reports are stored in the cloud, and can be delivered on-demand. This reduces storage requirements and dramatically reduces the time it takes to prove compliance.


IoT not only simplifies compliance management but ultimately leads to significant reductions in the time it takes to meet these compliance requirements. This allows clinicians to spend more time with their patients, leading to improved patient safety.


Remote Temperature Monitoring

Clinicians’ responsibilities are endless. Pharmacists, in particular, have an incredibly important role in ensuring successful healthcare outcomes: safe and effective medication use. This requires face-to-face time with patients in a setting that encourages dialogue in order to best understand patient needs and set proper expectations. In order to foster this notion, regular tasks that can be automated should be automated.


There are a number of medications, vaccines in particular, that require cooling to ensure efficacy. As outlined above, continuous temperature checks are mandatory to meet regulatory guidelines. To simplify this process, remote monitoring with a centralized dashboard consolidates the effort required to monitor temperature, again enabling clinicians to spend less time on tedious tasks.


Patient safety is a priority for healthcare professionals worldwide, but because of its complexity, requires a conscious effort on the part of clinicians and health administrators alike. Leveraging IoT and advances in healthcare technology will reduce the time that clinicians are spending away from their patients, and enable them to focus more of their efforts on improving patient safety.


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