While it may not always seem on the surface, the healthcare industry arguably has greater tech needs than any other industry in the modern world does. As the digital revolution has materialized and evolved, it’s introduced countless ways to make hospital management and patient care more efficient and effective. However, there are a number of significant challenges too. For just a few significant examples, consider the following:
- Maintaining patient privacy ― We delved into the issues relating to patient privacy and security in modern healthcare in the previous article. The article outlines that 25 million patient records were compromised in software data breaches by the midpoint of 2019. This persistent problem can expose countless patient personal information, personal health records, and financial records.
- Personnel and materials tracking ― To better provide patient care, healthcare-related industries are constantly growing: increase in staff, materials, and equipment. With this growth comes a need for better management from keeping tabs on employees to asset tracking hardware.
- Managing health data ― This is another software concern, much like that of managing patient privacy. Here, however, we talk about more general data including patient plans, scheduling information, employee records, supplier communications. Today, all this information can be monitored in cohesive and unified systems, but it must be done in an organized and reliable manner.
These are but a few of the many challenges the modern healthcare industry faces when it comes to implementing technology. While it can seem at times as if technology will more or less take care of itself, the reality is that managing these concerns is an intricate process, involving numerous hardware and software considerations. To put it in the form of a single question ― Can a modern clinic track hardware, monitor operations, and secure data through one all-encompassing effort?
One way to answer this question is to turn to the Internet of Things, a solution that plays a significant role in medical facility management and maintenance. The IoT represents the fundamental reality of the tech world’s most modern hardware and software tools. It connects these tools so they communicate with one another and collaborate on operations. In practice, this might mean that a single medical device in a single room can communicate wirelessly with a hospital’s network to share updates that are automatically organized and protected in a secure data cloud. Reaching a point of such efficiency can be quite difficult, though.
Plunware explored some of the limitations that keep healthcare facilities from reaching this point. In their article, Plunware identifies several problems: the difficulty of installing and maintaining IoT-connected beacons throughout facilities; the inadequacy of WiFi systems; and shortcomings in asset tracking. Basically, the equipment as it’s typically deployed today often can’t quite get the job done.
By focusing on Phunware’s central idea though ― to bring hardware and software together ― we can begin to see how a proper system can be devised to fully optimize modern technology within a busy modern healthcare facility. It could begin with steps like these:
Standardized CNC-Built Casing For Hardware ― CNC machining is being put to use for various purposes in healthcare, thanks in part to how versatile it is as a production method.
Fictiv explains this versatility by way of showcasing the different processes involved (milling, turning, electrical discharge machining, etc.), and makes clear that product orders are highly customizable. This has led to applications across the board, from the construction of medicine containers to the design of surgical implants. What links these applications is the wide-scale standardizations of design that CNC machining offers, and this same benefit could solve the aforementioned issue of installing and maintaining IoT-connected beacons. Essentially, hospitals could create universal storage mechanisms that would make it easier to stock facilities with beacons, and thus make those beacons more useful and reliable.
A Full Embrace of The Modern IoT ― With better, more broadly standardized storage and casing systems in place, healthcare facilities would be better able to fully embrace the various hardware involved in the modern Internet of Technology. More Bluetooth beacons, connected WiFi routers, and asset-tracking tags, throughout facilities, could spread the IoT out in as many ways as possible, and result in a more stable setup for logging and managing information accurately and in real time.
The Switch to 5G― As the aforementioned Phunware article pointed out, sometimes a WiFi network just doesn’t cut it for a healthcare facility. That is to say, even with more standardized approaches built in to accommodate the relevant hardware, the software isn’t always as strong or capable as it needs to be. This doesn’t mean healthcare facilities should abandon WiFi altogether by any means, but it is worth mentioning that emerging 5G networks could represent the solution that ties all of these points together. As ZDNet put it, the Internet of Things now involves an astounding amount of data, and next-generation wireless communications can play a key role in managing it. It’s difficult to talk in the most specific of terms just yet, with 5G only just beginning to make itself known. But it’s likely that 5G networks will provide the wireless capability to appropriately handle the information collected from improved hardware networks in healthcare facilities.
There’s more to the question of whether these solutions linking hardware and software can solve the problems hospitals face in connecting practices with effective and responsible data management. Effective implementation and management on the human level are also vital. However, the potential is there for significant improvements in these areas.