Insights to Action: Unlocking the Value of Healthcare IoT Data for Improved Patient Outcomes

By Guy Yehiav, President, SmartSense by Digi
Twitter: @SmartSenseHQ

The proliferation of IoT adoption across healthcare has created unprecedented volumes of data to leverage for improved patient outcomes. According to IDC’s Future of Industry Ecosystems Report, IoT devices are expected to generate more than 73 billion terabytes of healthcare data by 2025 – equating to a global market share exceeding $543 billion. The power of that data is wide-ranging. It can be utilized for everything from treating traumatic injuries and conducting remote cancer screenings to monitoring medical device performance and confirming HIPAA compliance.

However, the key caveat there is can.

Yes, IoT data does provide a wide variety of insights that can amplify a healthcare organization’s quality of care and operational efficiency – but only if they are positioned to act on them. The real challenge is sifting through those ever-growing streams of data to separate the relevant metrics, determine what they mean, and then simplify them into actionable insights that drive human decision-making. With healthcare’s manual-based data management processes of the past, overcoming that obstacle is all but impossible.

This need heightens the criticality of innovating IoT sensing and monitoring solution architectures to include AI-enabled digital decisioning and digitalized task management capabilities. Fusing these additional forms of technology amplifies traditional IoT sensing and monitoring functions into an interoperable IoT Sensing-as-a-Service (SaaS) framework, which removes data silos and, in turn, maximizes the inherent value of its output. An IoT SaaS system uses prescriptive analytics-based machine learning algorithms to automate the analysis of large datasets compiled by physical IoT sensors, and then categorize them into fresh real-time insights that pave a clear path for employees to perform more efficiently.

With the right IoT SaaS framework in place, healthcare organizations have an effective roadmap for transforming data into action that mitigates operational risk, streamlines human workflows, and improves patient outcomes.

Mitigating Operational Risk

Operational risk management (ORM) is a critical component to the success of any healthcare entity. When executed correctly, it reduces the level of risk associated with failed internal processes, people or systems that result in loss-causing events. From risk identification and assessment to control implementation and monitoring, every step of the ORM process must be meticulously implemented to be effective.

Hospitals, for instance, need to uphold intensive maintenance schedules for the thousands of medical devices extensively used by their practitioners – vaccine storage freezers, MRI machines, defibrillators, IV pumps, etc. Failing to adhere to these protocols is an example of operational risk, as it could lead to a major equipment breakdown that causes expensive repair costs, prolonged operational downtime or, in a worst-case scenario, negative patient outcomes. In this case, IoT SaaS mitigates that risk by digitalizing task management for the hospital’s equipment repair team. With physical IoT sensors attached to each device, the solution generates continuous feedback loops indicating their operating state and function. If a vaccine storage container unexpectedly fails to maintain its optimal temperature settings, the sensor sends that information to a digital dashboard that alerts the maintenance worker in real time with guidance to alleviate the issue before vaccine efficacy is damaged.

The system will also notify staff about simple routine assessments that are required and then confirm their completion, which helps avoid mishaps caused by human error – such as forgotten tasks or miscommunication among employees – and confirms compliance was followed.

Streamlining Human Workflows

Combining digital decisioning and digitalized task management with real-time asset traceability afforded by IoT SaaS is an effective tool for streamlining human workflows and enhancing operational efficiency. Since the data from physical IoT sensors provides real-time visibility into the location of individual assets, hospital employees can leverage the solution to locate missing devices and coordinate point-of-care logistics. That process enables nurses and other care providers to focus on taking care of patients without the need to check asset compliance every day.

Envision a physician at a primary care center responsible for monitoring high volumes of COVID-19 vaccines that must be stored in optimal temperature settings to maintain efficacy. Rather than wasting two hours of his shift manually reading. reporting that each asset remained in compliance, an IoT-enabled solution connected to a physical sensor placed inside the storage freezer automates the reporting process for him as well as the NIST compliant requirement accuracy – providing more time to prioritize patient-facing tasks that have a direct impact on care quality. This also provides an easy audit that would take literally minutes.

While these use cases signify common pain points on the hospital floor, thousands of other situations exactly like it transpire across healthcare facilities every day. Each individual workflow that is streamlined elevates the collective efficiency of the entire hospital for a higher standard of care quality across the board. The benefits are visible on both a micro and macro level.

With the rate of digital adoption across healthcare showing no signs of slowing down, now is a vital time for organizations to invest in IoT solution architectures that maximize the value of their data insights. After all, your data is only as strong as your ability to act on it.