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.
How many coach potatoes do you think there are out there, got a FitBit for the holidays and made good on their New Year’s resolutions to become chiselled fitness buffs — they all did, right? All these people started tracking themselves, gained detailed insights into every step back and forth from the fridge between Netflix binges, and through the power of visibility with informative dashboards and a fancy app, they put down the Häagen-Dazs and turned their life completely around.
The same thing happened with RTLS across the healthcare industry. Never mind the size, age of the facility or makeup of the physical environment, every hospital that bought into RTLS for asset tracking in the past decade gained visibility into the every tagged asset. As a result, biomedical engineers knew exactly where every medical device was and what condition it was in, nurses received those devices when they needed them, money was saved, patients were happy, and nobody had to get off the couch.
When hospitals think information technology, the 100-million-dollar gorilla in the room is electronic health records (EHR). While the adoption of these systems is meant to improve healthcare and create cost savings, EHR software systems are sprawling, their implementation complex and their price tags can run in the millions to hundreds of millions of dollars. At the high-end there are places like Boston-based Partners HealthCare, which went live with Epic (the EHR market-share leader) to the tune of $1.2 billion, after a three-year implementation process.
Most of us are familiar with automotive recalls like the ones that are frequently in the news, like Takata’s airbag recall that affected over 33 million vehicles. Those working in healthcare technology management (HTM) are also acutely aware of medical device recalls, which happen more frequently than most people realize. In the four years between 2005 and 2009, the FDA reports that manufacturers conducted 87 recalls on infusion pumps alone. It’s not news anyone likes hearing, but when a hospital is notified of a recall like the recent one on Alaris pumps, it can affect thousands of devices that are scattered across the hospital. Just finding these devices in a hospital can be a massive undertaking. After sending out emails to nursing staff, informing them of the recall, it’s not uncommon for HTM departments to have a dedicated staff member scouring the hospital in search of the devices. Once they are taken out of service for repair, the nursing staff and operations teams immediately feel the squeeze of having less equipment on hand. It is an arduous, time-consuming process, but there’s a way to turn that pain into gain.
Climate change is a big, sprawling, complex, hotly-debated issue and has been for some time. Here’s an interesting fact though: Only 35 percent of U.S. households actively recycle. If that number reached 75 percent, it would have the environmental benefit of removing 50 million cars from the road each year. Give yourself a pat on the back next time you bring those plastic bins out curbside. While it’s not going to fix everything, it seems like a fairly simple action that companies and individuals can take to make some change. What about healthcare in this country? That other, big, sprawling, complex, hotly debated issue. Can we find any low-hanging fruit there?
We have a time honored tradition in New England, on the eve of every blizzard, of ransacking local supermarkets shelves for bread, milk, water, canned goods, batteries—the essentials. If you go right before the heavy stuff starts, eyeing the barren shelves you’d think it was the end of days. We can’t help it. The news anchors, the weather team and our civic leaders all encourage us to stock up on the necessities and stay off the road. But let’s be honest, they’re just preaching to the choir. We’d do that last minute shopping anyways, because we know, when that storm hits, if we really need something, we won’t be able to get it. The stores are all closed, the roads are dangerous and impassable—the system is broken, so we all become a bunch of snowbound hoarders.
This year marks my 10th anniversary working on wireless tracking technologies. As a young electrical engineering student intrigued by all things wireless, my first encounter with radio frequency tracking was during a research assistantship at the University of Maryland, where I evaluated technologies for improving supply chain automation. I was blown away by the fact that a Band-Aid-sized electronic sensor could essentially make anything in physical space identifiable in the digital world. The terms "Internet of Things" and “IoT” were not commonly used back then.
From a ten-thousand-foot view, the technological nuances of wireless tracking can be intimidating, but once the basics are understood, it can be an extremely powerful tool. Notice the use of the word “tool”, because that’s exactly what wireless tracking is—an enabling tool and not an entire solution. In this blog, I break down the concepts of RFID and RTLS, the advantages and disadvantages of both, and their role in automation, specifically how it pertains to hospital workflow.
We live in extraordinary times. It feels like everything around us is moving so fast. It’s only when you pause for a moment and look back, that you realize how far technological advances have taken us. The Earth still moves at the same speed, but we’ve shrunk it in so many ways, connecting people through information and ideas in a relative blink of an eye.
In December of 1995, the International Data Corporation (IDC) reported the number of Internet users to be 16 million, or 0.4% of the world’s population. Twenty years later approximately 40% of the world’s population has an Internet connection. The first billion was reached in 2005, the second billion in 2010, and we just hit the third billion in 2014. Amidst the rising tide of a fully connected world and the proliferation of mobile communications, we find ourselves at the dawn of the Internet of Things—disrupting industries as diverse as manufacturing and shipping, to retail, transportation and healthcare.