At Mainspring, we strive to identify real problems in the healthcare industry and work with likeminded partners to utilize versatile Internet of Things (IoT) technology to develop innovative solutions. We create closed loop workflows, designed with multiple automated and manual inputs. Sensors placed on medical devices allow for automated data collection, giving hospitals insights into where things are and what condition they’re in. Different things in the hospital have different requirements for being connected to humans via the internet. Some challenges can be simply resolved by locating the assets using active RTLS or Passive RFID, while others need to also send information such as temperature/humidity and utilization.
Some are calling IoT a revolution, a new technological era, and of course, an over-hyped buzzword. There’s probably a bit of truth to them all. It’s undeniable though that the IoT phenomenon is causing a stir in across a host of industries and in turn affecting consumer behavior. Remarkable strides have been made by tech companies in hardware, software and cloud computing to bring information about the physical world to humans in the form of informative and actionable data. Some companies are focused on simplifying day-to-day life, like improving your home with Wi-Fi enabled thermostats (Nest), garage openers and home security. Others are focused on increasing consumer engagement in retail and entertainment, resource sharing (Uber) and personal health and fitness (Apple, Fitbit). Companies are also focused on solving complex logistical challenges and gaining efficiencies in industries like manufacturing, agriculture and healthcare.
Our recent integration with Emanate Wireless and their PowerPath™ RTLS tags is a perfect example of using IoT technology to solve the acute problem of refrigerator management in healthcare. Monitoring the storage temperature of critical assets and supplies across hospital and pharmaceutical environments is required to ensure safety and meet compliance requirements. RTLS temperature monitoring is a proactive measure by healthcare providers to ensure the integrity of items such as blood, food, medications and tissue samples. Actively monitoring critical temperatures of these items helps hospitals save thousands of dollars a year in loss prevention due to incorrect storage temperatures, as well as eliminating wasteful manual data entry and compliance reporting.
Believe it or not, many healthcare providers still depend on a rudimentary temperature recording process like the pen and clipboard. More advanced uses included data loggers that are networked and can let healthcare providers know when temperatures falls out of specification. Networked monitors are leaps and bounds ahead of manual recordings but are still a reactive solution. With an intelligent sensor like the Emanate PowerPath Temp and our IoT platform, hospitals can capture information and take action well before any occurrence of a failure by monitoring the health of the cold storage unit itself. Conditions like doors left open due to negligence, unusually long defrost cycles, compressors working overtime and loss of AC power are monitored constantly to enable preemptive servicing of the storage unit.
The PowerPath tag monitors the AC power utilization of the storage unit in addition to the internal temperature parameters. Intelligent algorithms along with a constant power measurement allows the PowerPath tag to detect unusual activity and report it to the Mainspring’s IoT platform. These events drive actions (work orders) that are assigned to the appropriate fulfillment teams via our legacy Rules Engine, mobile applications, Advanced Reports and Dashboards. The workflow is designed to inherently include workload balance based on worker schedule, closed loop accountability and tracking of events leading up to the closing of the issue after the notification is first generated. The PowerPath RTLS tag also takes it further by providing an audio-visual alerting mechanism that can be programmed to trigger when the storage unit is left open for more than a specific period of time — because let’s face it — whatever the setting, humans are almost genetically determined to leave the refrigerator open.
PowerPath is easily installed without any particular mechanical expertise. It mounts on the side of a healthcare refrigerator or freezer and is plugged in between the refrigerator or freezer's plug and an AC outlet. Its temperature probe is inserted through the back of the refrigerator or freezer's plug or routed behind the door seal. The PowerPath device includes a rechargeable, lifetime battery, eliminating battery maintenance on device itself, resulting in labor savings and issues related to a dead battery. Its Wi-Fi technology sends data to Mainspring software and can provide the real-time location of the storage unit to help the service engineers locate it in a large hospital.
For the healthcare industry, this represents an opportunity to preserve often-expensive or even irreplaceable products like pharmaceuticals, vaccines, or human organs and tissues requiring a constant temperature for storage. Efficient maintenance of cold storage units enabled by a revolutionary, yet straightforward IoT solution trickles down to bottom line savings and provides enhanced patient care. As a member of the IoT community, I am excited to see applications like these that can take a challenging problem and provide elegantly integrated hardware and software solutions and have a big impact across hospital operations.