Data-Driven Video Technology: A Powerful Tool Helping People with Limitations

Updated on January 2, 2023

Today’s advanced video technologies are having a profound, positive impact on healthcare operations beyond security. Hospitals, health systems, long-term care, and nursing facilities are increasingly relying on the intelligent capabilities of their video systems to keep staff informed and patients safe.

For many years, the benefits of an open platform Video Management System (VMS) have extended beyond security-related integrations at health and care facilities. Real-time and archived video data are vital in optimizing building and traffic management, improving operational efficiencies, and helping healthcare providers comply with hygiene, fire, environmental regulations and credentialing bodies, such as The Joint Commission. 

Due to advances in video and audio analytics, robust remote connectivity, and the ease of use with VMS systems, video surveillance technologies are now being adapted in a wide range of care facilities to help assure the health and wellness of people with injuries, disabilities, and other limitations. Smart video, audio, and other AI sensors and edge devices are being deployed at convalescent homes, long-term care facilities, retirement homes, hospitals, clinics, and community centers where services are offered specifically for those with limitations.

A Range of Concerns

It’s essential to note that a limitation can mean any number of things, all with unique safety and assistance considerations. Although “people with disabilities” refers to a single population, “people with limitations” is a more diverse group encompassing individuals with a wide range of needs. Limitations typically include participation restrictions in daily undertakings, such as struggles in working, engaging in recreational activities, and difficulties in obtaining healthcare services.

In all these examples, cameras can act as a force multiplier to help healthcare providers assist with 24/7 patient monitoring. At long-care and similar facilities, cameras are often installed in resident rooms to help staff quickly respond to emergencies and gain situational awareness. AI-driven video technology assists healthcare staff to better support patients and helps manage their daily workload, especially in places where staffing shortages are an issue. A camera in a room can do much more today than be a silent witness to events.

In-Room, Data-Driven Actions

A common problem among the elderly and others with mobility limitations is the possibility that they may fall when no one is around to see or hear them. With in-room cameras and intelligent video, audio, and motion analytics, healthcare providers can be notified immediately after a resident alarm is triggered, ensuring that the person is quickly and appropriately assisted. Smart video analytics can even help staff detect pre-fall conditions and help reduce the chances that a patient or resident will fall in the first place. For example, if a resident has kicked off their blanket from the bed, dropped a crutch, or knocked over a walker, smart video and sound intelligence analytics can notify nurses that this has occurred. The analytic software can be programmed to send an alarm at the moment the risk presents itself, so staff can intervene before an incident occurs. 

An open platform VMS and video analytics and audio sensors can also indicate other types of anomalies. For example, sound sensors can detect glass breaking, which could be a window, a vase, or another object that has fallen in the room, presenting a hazard. Similarly, smart analytics are also used with bed and wheelchair alarms, such as when a high-risk-for-falling patient gets out of bed, or a person tries to rise from their wheelchair; the analytics can detect this and trigger an alarm that indicates the area where this is occurring and send an alert to healthcare providers.

Safe Recreation for All

The City of Houston’s Metropolitan Multi-Service Center (MMSC) at West Gray — an anchor site for government and non-profit programs and services for people with disabilities — is an excellent example of using technology to help those with limitations. The facility recently installed its first IP video management system, prioritizing safety and security for patrons with disabilities, staff, and building tenants.

Previously, the center relied on staff to physically conduct security rounds on its seven-acre property. For people with disabilities, MMSC provides structured classes such as yoga, a fitness room, a full-court gym, an indoor heated pool, a Beep baseball field for the blind, tennis courts, a quarter-mile outdoor trail, an urban garden, and a large all-access playground.

The cameras oversee the extensive property, including the playground, tennis courts, and other wheelchair-accessible areas. The intelligent cameras deployed in the main lobby and public spaces provide 4K video footage as well as object detection and feature extraction, which allows for forensic search by gender, age, clothing color, bag, glasses, masks, and other characteristics.

The integrated, omnidirectional microphones used at MMSC pick up sounds from all directions, combine the audio with video data, and alert the staff to patron calls of distress. The system essentially looks and listens for anomalies — such as a call for help — and then alerts the staff, who can instantly see what’s happening and respond appropriately.

Large-Scale Smart Solutions

At the other end of the scale, large hospitals and health systems are also leveraging the capabilities of video integrations and data analytics. Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) is a 1,200-bed general medical and surgical facility with 49,000 admissions and 100,000 emergency room visits annually. With a staff of 27,000, MGH is the largest non-government employer in Boston.

With 1,300 cameras recording 24/7 and more than 1,000 investigations processed annually, Massachusetts General Hospital’s security team could not keep up with reviewing the vast amounts of recorded video. Now, a suite of powerful video analytic software is used for fast video review, search and analysis — all embedded within an open platform video management system — making efficient, timely, and effective large-scale video investigations possible. Detailed video investigations that may have previously taken weeks can now be done within a matter of hours. 

Managing More with Less

Faced with ever-increasing workloads and staff and nurse shortages, hospitals and health systems of all types are turning to technology to help do more with less. How can providers ensure that their patients, residents, and patrons are being taken care of while also ensuring the well-being of staff? Luckily, if healthcare facilities already have an open platform video management system in place — combined with AI-driven cameras and integrated system analytic software — these data-driven video technology tools can significantly help provide appropriate care while assisting the staff with some much-needed workload relief.

Mark Johnson is National Business Development Manager — Healthcare, at Milestone Systems.