Fortune Favors the Prepared: Why IoT/RTLS Should be Part of Your Pandemic Planning

by Houston Klassen, Executive VP, Infinite Leap

The COVID-19 crisis has exposed weaknesses and vulnerabilities across the healthcare industry, and has made many organizations wish that they had taken more serious actions to prepare for a pandemic situation before now. The “what if?” game has played out in earnest in many executive suites over the last few months.

As we continue to work with both healthcare executives and frontline staff, one topic continually seems to rise to the top of the list: healthcare systems that had invested in IoT technologies, such as Real-Time Location Systems (RTLS), were able to leverage them in the fight with COVID-19, and their investments paid dividends.

For example:

  1. They already had instant and accurate visibility into the location of their critical assets and understood how their people were moving within their facilities. This saved them time in coordinating their response to the pandemic and helped them minimize unnecessary and potentially dangerous interactions.
  2. In an effort to regain the trust of their patients and staff, many utilized IoT technologies to put “virtual waiting rooms” in place which enabled patients to check in from their vehicles and to automatically be notified via a text message to their personal device when it was safe for them to enter the facility, removing the risks of congested, and potentially contaminated, waiting areas.
  3. Many were able to utilize existing location-enabled patient and staff badges to instantly deliver automated contact tracing, enabling faster and more accurate notifications about potential exposure, minimizing the spread of infectious diseases.

Not only were these healthcare organizations able to leverage their existing investment, but they are already looking for new ways to extend and expand the use of IoT technologies to help them gain back patient confidence, increase capacity so that they can quickly deal with the backlog of patients who stayed away from their appointments out of fear, and prepare for the potential of a resurgence in COVID-19 and seasonal flu cases this fall. Many also realize that their pandemic preparedness was insufficient and this outbreak has served as a reminder that these situations can come (and will come) unexpectedly at any time, so being prepared provides the best chance of mitigating the impact.

If your organization has already purchased an RTLS system, or any other IoT technology, we strongly recommend re-evaluating your technology stack through the lens of how it can be leveraged to operate a healthcare system today, and into the future.

Consider the following topics and questions as you undertake your Pandemic Preparedness Audit:

1. What use case does your current system support (asset management, patient flow, contact tracing, temperature monitoring, etc.)?

2. Has the system allowed you to retain a positive patient experience amid COVID-19 safety measures?

3. Have you integrated your real-time location system with your EHR, CMMS, and scheduling system so you can increase the usefulness and accuracy of your data and minimize the lag time?

4. Are you able to get enough location accuracy that you can actually use the system to detect and prevent accidental contact? Can you determine what equipment has been exposed to contagions, without any ambiguity?

5. Is your system reliable? Is it operating at a level where you know you can rely on it? Do you even have a way to measure the reliability of your system?

6. Are you seeing the types of results you expected, or that you once were able to measure? If not, is it due to low system adoption, lack of proper reporting, or maybe inadequate processes?

7. Is your staff fully on board with the system? Are they using it and do you have a way to know how they are using it? Do they know how to use it? Do they see value in using it? Do they need additional training?

8. Have you taken into consideration all of the new developments that Internet of Things (IoT) technologies provide?

9. Do you have a long term plan of what you want the system to do? What value do you expect? Are you leveraging it for everything it can provide? What are the things you WISH you had implemented prior to COVID-19 that you don’t want to be waiting for when the next pandemic arrives?

Our team has gained a lot of “IoT during a pandemic” experience since March of this year. We’ve helped healthcare organizations deploy technologies in ways that we hadn’t even thought of in January. We’ve even developed solutions that can be installed in under an hour in a department or a facility (ASCs, radiology departments, clinics, family practices, etc.) without any outside vendors having to come on site. Because “Necessity is the Mother of all Invention” we’ve been able to address a lot of “necessities” during 2020, helping our clients face challenges of running operations during COVID-19.

If you are interested in hearing more details about how we’ve helped health organizations leverage IoT/RTLS during this pandemic, or would like assistance in guiding you through a planning process of your own, please just give us a call.

We would love the opportunity to share our expertise and set you on a solid path so if we experience the resurgence of COVID-19, or face a new type of emergency situation in the future, you won’t be one of those hospitals “wishing” you’d done more to prepare for it.

Remember, Fortune Favors the Prepared!