By Nadir Ali
When examining real-time health systems (RTHS), the focus is often on how technology can assist in direct care delivery and the communication of information between electronic health records and medical equipment. However, the same location technologies that power many RTHS capabilities are also the key to addressing a wide variety of issues that can have negative effects on the entire continuum of care, and on patient satisfaction scores.
Smart, multi-layered indoor maps with permission-based views are the simplest way to make sure that everyone, at every level of the organization, has the information that they need, when they need it. As with other areas of healthcare internet of things (IoT) technology, once a hospital has location awareness and interoperable indoor maps, the benefits are impactful and the possibilities limitless.
The process of implementing indoor intelligence has never been easier. The overall project includes three primary parts which can be done sequentially but don’t have to be. Many organizations choose to implement all three of the following steps in one project.
The Three Steps to Indoor Intelligence:
Step One: Modernize Your Map
A quality indoor mapping solution provider will convert your facility CAD files or PDF maps into an intelligent, multi-layer, digital map. They’ll thenplot onto the map “digital twins” of all the facility’s key places and things — entrances, valid pathways, reception areas, conference rooms, restrooms, elevators, restaurants, coffee carts and more. This information-rich map is now actionable and can be made available to patients, visitors and staff via a smartphone app, kiosk and/or website. Each user type can have their own view of the map. For instance, visitors can view only the public areas, while the staff can see the back offices and restricted pathways.
At the completion of step one, users can search for desired points of interest and see the pathways to reach their destination quickly. It has been reported that the U.S. healthcare market loses $150 billion each year from missed medical appointments, due in part to the difficulty patients face navigating complex buildings. So, this modern, interactive map with wayfinding can deliver immediate return on investment.
Step Two: Add Indoor Positioning, a.k.a., the “Blue Dot.”
The map described in step one above will show users the path between their designated starting and end points, but it won’t automatically pinpoint their current location on the map, nor will it provide real-time, turn-by-turn guidance as they walk. For that outdoor-like navigation experience, the facility will implement indoor positioning technologies.
While there are several technology options available, one relatively easy method to achieve the blue dot functionality is to install Bluetooth beacons around the facility. The user’s phone leverages the beacons’ radio signals plus the phone’s on-device sensors to determine its real-time location relative to the map. Turn-by-turn navigation is just one of a plethora of capabilities unlocked when user positioning is enabled.
Step Three: Integrate Mapping With Other Systems
System interoperability is the capability for data to flow between two systems. It is most often achieved through the use of technical tools called API and SDKs. Here are just a few of the many powerful use cases made possible when systems can talk to one another:
- Enabling data flow and triggers between the maps and your EHR/EMR or appointment booking system can enable at-home patients to click on their appointment details email and get driving directions to the appropriate parking structure, to the right building entrance, and to their final destination.
- A patient experience app integration can allow patients to view waiting times, check-in, and more, right from the app’s map.
- Plotting a facility’s IoT sensors on the map can make it possible for staff to view room temperatures, CO2 sensor readings and more, overlain on the floor plan.
- Asset tracking is another powerful integration. If critical assets are tagged with a radio frequency transceiver, staff can quickly find wheelchairs, infusion pumps, or any of a facility’s other mobile assets. Personnel can view its location on the map, ascertain its status (available? clean?), and tap the map to reserve it.
This third step, systems interoperability, can be particularly powerful in terms of delivering impact. Integration enables automation, and automating time-consuming administrative tasks or digitizing analog processes allows healthcare professionals to improve productivity and focus more of their time on patient care. Automation can drive costs down and patient satisfaction scores up.
Once these technological foundations are in place and this COVID period of crisis has passed, hospitals can leverage this technology even further by gaining valuable insights into patient behavior, resource utilization and staffing needs. In these ways, indoor intelligence can be leveraged to improve patient healthcare experiences, staff productivity and workflow efficiencies, improving our nation’s hospitals and their delivery of care for the long term.
With indoor maps, positioning technology, and system interoperability in place, hospitals will be equipped to face their current and future challenges with confidence and capability.
Nadir Ali is CEO of Inpixon, the Indoor Intelligence company.