They are now turning to advanced technology to achieve this, including automated diagnostic equipment, electronic patient records and remote client monitoring systems. Technology is revolutionising healthcare, making it more mobile, improving care outcomes for patients and lowering the cost of care.
Healthcare is a major cost in all developed countries. In the US, for example, healthcare spending is expected to reach 20% of GDP by 2015. Along with the benefits, many new techniques bring new costs and, in many countries, costs are also being pushed up by populations that are ageing and overweight. Healthcare organisations are looking for new and more efficient ways to manage care delivery in order to keep the costs to manageable levels. Technology has an important role to play in this, not just in reducing costs, but also in improving the quality of service provided.
Health Informatics, eHealth and mHealth are terms that are used to describe the use of electronic equipment including networked computers, mobile devices and the Internet to streamline the delivery of healthcare. New technology has enabled the introduction of electronic patient records, telemedicine and patient information systems that are now accessible via the Internet. All of these technologies are part of the managed care approach that has been introduced in the US in an attempt to control healthcare costs and make the system more sustainable. Juniper Research expects mHealth in the US to become a two billion dollar business by 2014.
One of the strongest trends in healthcare today is the move towards delivering care remotely, using wireless technology and remote sensors to augment the skills of the care provider on the spot. This allows care to be delivered in the patient’s home, in an ambulance, or at a local clinic. However, the rate of adoption is still slow and wireless technologies have only just begun to penetrate the market.
M2M is one technology that can reduce costs in a wide range of care situations, by making it possible to automate remote monitoring, remote diagnosis and remote delivery of expertise. This can bring a new sense of empowerment to patients and vital real-time data to providers. The emerging use of M2M in healthcare is one of the most compelling examples of ‘smart business’. Its adoption is being driven by changing demographics, particularly the increase in elderly patients, and the availability of new technology and advances in medical treatment. Up until now, uptake has been slow due to resistance to change among healthcare organisations and clinicians, misaligned incentive structures, concerns about privacy and the availability of finance where there are many competing priorities for funding. However, new developments in the healthcare sector are likely to speed up the rate of adoption. These include funding agencies requiring safety monitoring boards to oversee clinical trials and provide more data, new requirements from insurance companies and greater clinical evidence which proves the cost effectiveness of mHealth.
M2M-enabled solutions will make healthcare more personal. They will be used, for example, to monitor a patient’s condition whether they are in a care facility or at home. M2M services will make it possible for a physician to make a remote diagnosis based on the transmission of vital signs or other clinical data from one device to another. Patients will also have devices they can use at home to monitor their own conditions or fitness regimes. M2M will be used by hospitals to track the delivery and status of prescription drugs and to monitor usage-based medical equipment, helping to streamline costs and increase safety precautions.
Data can be collected more effectively and efficiently as the patient does not need to travel to a clinic. More detailed data, from more frequent testing, allows any deterioration in a patient’s condition to be identified quickly, with potentially life-saving results.
Current monitoring solutions result in a number of problems for both clinicians and patients:
The adoption of M2M solutions brings a number of important benefits, which help to alleviate some of these problems:
Many of the conditions commonly being monitored today are chronic diseases. These include cardiac arrhythmia, hypertension, ischemic diseases, sleep apnea, diabetes, hyperlipidemia, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). These conditions incur substantial healthcare costs and reduce both life expectancy and quality of life for sufferers.
Implementing Pacific Controls ICT Enabled Managed Services For Business Process Integration means that patients who suffer from such conditions no longer have to spend excessive amounts of their time in hospitals and driving to doctor appointments just to deal with routine monitoring. Instead, patients can check their blood pressure, oxygen levels, weight, blood sugar and other vital signs at home every day with a M2M-enabled healthcare kit. Equipment being used by the patient can be monitored remotely: blood pressure measurement and weight scales from mobile electrocardiograms (ECG); pedometers and fitness equipment as well as glucose meters and spirometers can be monitored using implant monitors. The information is recorded, levels calibrated and data transmitted wirelessly to their healthcare providers so that physicians can check progress. This same information can even be sent to loved ones or other designated recipients to keep them informed with the latest progress and can also be used to help the patient track their own condition. These products and the data they record can be used to define customised health and exercise plans for individuals or groups.
Regular monitoring is crucial for chronic diseases where patients often realise a worsening of their condition very late and complications result in expensive hospitalisation. When the health parameters are measured more often, a more complete profile is available to the clinicians and that can improve the quality of treatment. Experts at Pacific Controls GCCC can detect the smallest variations which allow earlier detection of problems, saving the patient medical costs as well as potentially saving their lives and preventing expensive emergencies.
Some patients, particularly sufferers from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, can live a relatively normal life, but often need to be monitored to ensure they are not jeopardising their own safety. Using GPS solutions to track their movements allows them more independence. An accelerometer will alert care givers if there is a fall or other life-threatening event and the sensors can notify providers and loved ones if the individual has turned on the lights, used the restroom, fallen down, or gone outside in the middle of the night.
A lone worker is anyone who works routinely on their own in a hospital or general practice environment. They may care for patients, or other service users without the support of line managers or other colleagues. The term could also relate to those who work in the community where care is provided in the patient’s home or in a non-clinical environment and away from a hospital setting.
Pacific Controls Managed Services for Critical Assets Monitoring include a lone worker tracking system, that provides accurate location information for the user should they have to raise an alarm. This information is automatically passed on to the team on the ground enabling a faster response. Making use of Pacific Controls personal safety and protection service provides cost-effective reassurance for staff that their lives are protected, improving staff retention and reducing insurance premiums. Pacific Controls Lone Worker solution is described in Section 3.4.
The majority of medical devices today work as individual units, monitoring and reporting only one specific aspect of a patient’s health. Doctors and nurses have to spend time piecing the information together to get a complete picture. eHealth systems are working towards eliminating this inefficiency by linking applications to web-based platforms that aggregate, visualise and manage medical data. This will provide a clear picture of the patient’s health for all of those involved: doctors and health service providers and the patients themselves, and will also reduce the need for paper records.
Pacific Controls ICT Enabled Managed Services for Business Process Integration ensures a highly reliable data connection that enables a range of new services:
In Healthcare, asset availability saves lives. High-value equipment, such as MRI scanners, is often used continuously and to the point where it may become faulty. Breakdowns result in costly repairs and rescheduling of appointments, as well as delays to treatment. Heart and breathing monitors must operate reliably or patients may be put at risk. Faults in laboratory equipment such as blood analysers, X-ray or MRI scanners can lead to unnecessary treatment for patients or missed diagnoses. It is imperative, therefore, that life-critical equipment must be maintained to the highest standards at all times and that any signs of a fault developing are diagnosed and attended to quickly. Linking such medical devices to Pacific Controls Managed Services for Critical Assets Monitoring will assure that these types of equipment are serviced properly and are always ready for use when needed. Replenishment of consumables that are critical to patient care can be automated by real-time data, whether in hospitals or in emergency services vehicles. Real-time asset and inventory levels can be shared securely with product and service vendors to eliminate excess purchasing.
Pacific Controls managed services can easily be connected to health monitoring equipment and used to optimise critical processes. The M2M solution lowers operating costs, minimises equipment downtime, improves equipment performance and reduces unnecessary service calls and decommissioning. The M2M and web services approach makes it easy to integrate with the client’s existing systems. Pacific Controls already has a strong footing in the healthcare provision sector and has conducted considerable R&D into the sector’s requirements in order to provide products that target those needs.
For suppliers of critical healthcare equipment and processes, Pacific Controls can develop wireless M2M technology and wireless sensor network solutions that meet the specific needs of the market they are operating in, so as to accommodate local industry regulations, device configurations, environmental conditions, data accessibility and end-user needs. The company has an open minded, collaborative approach to working with partners to ensure the right products and processes are taken to market.
Suppliers selling their products into this challenging environment can offer their customers greater peace of mind using the Pacific Controls Managed Services for Critical Assets Monitoring. They can connect their equipment to the Galaxy platform to identify performance anomalies in real time and alert service personnel before a breakdown occurs. Alarm generating systems such as nurse call buttons can generate alerts automatically if there are too many false activations or if the system has stopped working. A Gbot may be able to fix the problem remotely, or, if this is not possible, an engineer can be there before the client has even noticed there is an issue. Companies in this emerging market can extend and enhance their range of services and increase benefits to end users, thereby gaining clear competitive advantages through their use of Pacific Controls managed services within their new evolving business model.
The ability to capture data, gained through use of M2M technology and Pacific Controls managed services, also provides invaluable business analytics from the field.