Connectivity is a crucial element for any healthcare facility. Even before all the recent chatter of the latest generation of mobile networks (5G) and multiple wireless generations of Bluetooth® and Wi-Fi®, and LTE and wired networking before that, connecting a patient to a monitor and then connecting that monitor to screens or devices for medical professionals to check has always been important—it’s been the difference between life and death. But there’s more to connectivity in healthcare than critical patient monitoring.
Today’s healthcare facilities and hospitals now use connectivity that goes beyond what’s needed in the monitoring-for-life-and-death scenario. The wireless technology of choice is Bluetooth, due to the low-bandwidth requirements of these IoT applications, which typically fall into three categories: noncritical patient monitoring, hospital asset tracking and indoor locationing (for example, in very big healthcare campuses where it is easy for things and people to get lost).
Atmosic’s M2 and M3 Bluetooth® 5 platforms, which greatly enhance low-bandwidth IOT applications through lowest power radio design, on-demand receive and controlled energy harvesting, are well-designed for all three categories. Atmosic SoCs provide connectivity at 10-to-100 times lower power relative to other solutions, and offer the added bonus of energy harvesting as a viable power source for connected devices. This means that some IOT devices will be able to source power from energy harvesting through RF or other means (like indoor lighting) and will utilize that power to extend the battery life significantly, or power the device completely, without batteries at all.
Noncritical Patient Monitoring
Examples of noncritical patient monitoring include badges or wrist-bands that incorporate sensors. These might be battery-less bands that read simple data to share vitals—such as common biometrics or even patient IDs—over Bluetooth. RF or light-sourced energy is available through the hospital to power such devices. In some cases the patient could be sent home with the same monitoring device, helping to track and continue the tracking of various vitals post hospital stay, since the first few days after a hospital stay are sometimes crucial for the transition of patient into home care. In addition, connected badges or wrist-bands can track the whereabouts of patients while they are at the facility, an extremely important function for large campuses.
By using battery-free technology such as Atmosic’s, the hospital or healthcare facility can reduce the costs of setting up and continually monitoring patient vitals. One additional benefit? Since batteries can sometimes be problematic for certain types of patient procedures and tests involving magnetics, Atmosic’s battery-free solutions can enable the patient to continue to be monitored even during those type of activities. Finally, since these devices can be re-programmed, they can be re-used for other patients by re-formatting for the new patient (and deleting the previous patent information).
Hospital Asset Tracking
With all of the specialized equipment in a modern day hospital, tracking of these assets is one of the largest problems today. And the larger the healthcare campus, the more challenging the situation is likely to be. This typically occurs because the facility has no standard mechanism for asset tracking, as the assets come from a variety of providers. Add to that, there is no dedicated staff in place to change and maintain the assets or to ensure the batteries and power supplies are current. As such, there are three benefits for asset tracking. Firstly it helps account for the assets – today an average hospital can only account for 60% of assets. The second is it helps in locating them when needed. Thirdly, it could help medical facilities to fulfill compliance and regulatory rules; with an example of alerting when the last defibrillator is being removed from a floor since there should be minimum one per floor.
In fact, many healthcare facilities expect nursing staff to manually track assets, which is a losing proposition when considering the true priority of the nursing staff is care of the patients. A typical 1000- bed hospital has 60-70 thousand assets and takes a staff of four about 120 days annually to track!! With wirelessly connected asset tracking devices that are battery-free or life-time battery capable through energy harvesting, the facilities can save significantly in terms of staff performance, time, money and morale, not to mention cutting back on the number of batteries that need to be properly disposed of so as not to impact the environment. One of the benefits is not just the cost of the battery, but the cost of paying someone to replace the battery.
Indoor Locationing Beacons
The third category covers large hospitals and healthcare campuses—places where you need a map to find your way. These types of facilities often have mapping applications that visitors and employees can download to their cell phone. These applications will synchronize to take signals from beacons placed throughout the campus or hospital to help people get where they intend to go.
The beacons can be connected via Bluetooth and can be battery-free, harvesting energy from nearby devices through RF signals or indoor light energy. As the beacons don’t require a great deal of power, this scenario works perfectly, especially those based on Atmosic’s IOT SoCs.
To learn more about Atmosic’s M2 and M3 platforms, check out our products, here.