Smart patient tracking is a shining example of how RFID and IoT help in the healthcare environment helping to improve services and, consequently, drive better care. However, there is no innovation without its drawbacks.
In our new article, we focus on the benefits and challenges of tracking RFID and IoT patients to help hospitals get a better idea of what to expect.
Monitoring patients in hospitals helps improve safety, identify and address gaps in internal processes, improve bed allocation, update physician schedules, and increase patient satisfaction. Patient follow-up is based on RFID i IoT technologies, which allow tracking, data storage and analysis.
Upon arrival at the hospital, a patient receives a bracelet with an RFID tag. Each label includes relevant patient information: identification, name, electronic medical record, allergies, current status, test results, recommended medications, and more. As a patient moves around the hospital, readers placed on the walls and ceilings of the hospital and its surrounding territory receive information about the location of the tags and transfer it to the IoT cloud for their processing and analysis. The analysis can be performed in real time, for example, to detect emergencies, and with historical data (e.g., health records) to identify bottlenecks in the hospital’s internal processes and, consequently, treatment.
After discharge, the tag is collected and reassigned to another patient.
Real-time visibility of each patient’s location is especially beneficial for older patients and patients with mental conditions. For example, elderly patients or patients with some neurodegenerative diseases (e.g., Alzheimer’s disease) may get lost in the hospital and wander without being able to find their way to the ward.
Improved real-time visibility of each patient’s location can bring many other benefits, for example:
- Family members are quickly directed to a patient or informed when a patient will be free of a current appointment.
- Nurses have better opportunities to monitor pediatric patients (who, for example, may interact with their peers and forget about necessary appointments).
- A cleaning service is notified when all patients have left the room and can be cleaned.
Smart tracking speeds up incident detection – for example, a patient goes down the stairs and falls. By analyzing data about a patient’s movements and sudden change, an IoT system draws the conclusion of an incident and sends an alert to a responsible nurse.
A patient tracking app notifies a nurse of a possible incident
If an emergency (for example, a fire) occurs in a particular room, floor, or department, hospital representatives can monitor that all patients have left an endangered area and see that there are patients. prostrate in bed who need additional help for evacuation.
In the long run, by analyzing data on past incidents, a hospital can detect potentially dangerous areas (e.g., stairs can be uncomfortable or take a long time for some stairs to dry out after cleaning them and are slippery) and take action. to prevent further incidents.
A patient may forget that it is time to take medication, attend an appointment with the doctor, an examination, or a certain procedure. RFID tracking helps to quickly identify the exact location of any patient and remembers upcoming scheduled events. It may be the responsibility of a floor nurse. Otherwise, a patient can receive a notification via a mobile app, or even an alert feature built into a patient wristband.
A patient receives a notification reminding him of a scheduled appointment
As soon as events connected to each patient (visits scheduled and scheduled, movements from one department to another, etc.) are recorded in the patient tracking system, a hospital can better see its overall load and department load. separated and medical. This information provides the health care provider with the opportunity to adjust staff workflows and patient treatment schedules to make better use of hospital facilities and time.
Accumulated RFID data can help a healthcare organization predict patient flow. This data can be used even more, for example, to plan in the long run how many drugs and equipment need to be purchased to make sure they will be used and not used.
To enable effective and secure patient tracking, it is necessary to cover the following points characteristic of the RFID and IoT technology package in general. They are a cost-effective implementation and prevention of tag collision (a reader needs and cannot differentiate a large number of tags at once).
However, it is equally important to consider and address in a timely manner possible specific barriers and concerns for patient follow-up.
Ethical issues of following people
From an ethical perspective, RFID and IoT tracking is a rather controversial innovation. The arguments are that it touches on issues of confidentiality and can interfere with patient privacy. To address this concern, a hospital should establish follow-up in agreement with patients. In some cases (for example, with the elderly or mentally ill patients), ongoing follow-up should be agreed with the patient’s relatives and may even require the signing of a special contract.
Intelligent patient monitoring involves treating private and vulnerable information (patient data, medical conditions, etc.). Even if a hospital uses HIPAA-compliant patient tracking software, it makes sense to mention that neglected actions by hospital staff who have access to and may disclose follow-up information and patient databases. (deliberately or not) can cause data leaks. Therefore, educating on how to use smart patient tracking safely should not be at the bottom of the adoption list for smart patient tracking.
The need to establish continuous monitoring of patients
Control can be interrupted if a patient loses or throws away their labeled bracelet. These situations are difficult to predict and prevent, so hospital staff must deal with the situation as soon as possible. An IoT system, in turn, can help here to reveal an unusual location of an RFID tag and to inform the responsible hospital staff.
Instead of a conclusion
Smart patient tracking with RFID and IoT provides greater visibility into each patient’s location, improves patient safety, helps identify gaps in the hospital’s internal processes, and finds ways to cover those gaps. However, there are a number of concerns when it comes to adopting smart patient tracking (e.g., ethical issues of tracking people, cybersecurity, etc.). For this innovation to bear fruit, it must be implemented with care and consideration to make it comfortable and safe for patients and doctors.