As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to unfold and conversations about reentry into public spaces percolate, medical staff are working around the clock to test and treat patients. Stay-at-home orders and limitations on large gatherings have helped to slow the spread of the disease, but concerns about hospital capacity and medical staff shortages remain. Hospitals and clinics must continue to optimize their resources and streamline operations to protect frontline medical workers, deliver the best patient care and support public health.
Resilient healthcare organizations are finding new ways to diagnose and treat patients outside of hospitals, including pop-up testing locations and telehealth treatment options. Here are three ways IoT technology can continue to help healthcare workers flatten the curve and fight the coronavirus pandemic.
Many hospitals are already near or at capacity. In response, local governments, pharmacies and health organizations have deployed temporary triage tents and pop-up locations to test more patients outside of typical clinics or emergency rooms. Rite Aid, CVS and Walgreens are among the many essential retailers that have taken the extra step to set up these sites outside their stores and test thousands of individuals every day.
The clinical staff at these sites rely on Wireless on Wheels carts, tablets, scanners and video cameras to treat patients. But network capabilities at these locations are often overlooked even though they require the same speed, connectivity, security and performance of a traditional medical facility. These pop-up locations often manage sensitive patient data and must be compliant with privacy and security regulations that vary from location to location.
Network engineers must prioritize secure, constant connectivity for IoT devices and centralize visibility and analytics across healthcare networks to identify and mitigate any security threats. Because healthcare networks are even more distributed than normal, automated threat mitigation can help to maximize IT resources while safeguarding medical operations.
Almost every business around the country has transitioned to remote work wherever possible to further prevent the spread of COVID-19, including hospitals.
Healthcare organizations are turning to telehealth options, setting up remote nurse call centers and remote patient monitoring protocols so clinical staff can evaluate patients from a distance and answer medical questions directly and efficiently. This allows patients with mild symptoms to receive medical care without leaving the safety of their home. IoT devices such as connected thermometers and blood pressure cuffs are also being utilized for at-home patient monitoring and ongoing care.
With telehealth on the rise, medical facilities are revisiting how to maintain network connectivity when it matters the most. It’s important for IT managers to have a seat at the table when hospitals devise and implement telemedicine treatment strategies because they can identify necessary infrastructure and communicate anticipated challenges in order to establish secure, compliant processes at the design phase, mitigate anticipated IoT connectivity issues and support remote practitioners.
Businesses are also looking to deploy IoT devices to help keep employees and the public safe as they return to work. Beyond face masks, occupancy protocols, temperature screening kiosks and heightened sanitation, IoT technology has the potential to help facilitate a more seamless transition back to the workplace.
For example, thermal imaging, wireless devices and location analytics can help facilities teams and administrators manage safe social distancing in the workplace. In the event of sudden increases in foot traffic, occupancy management systems are designed to pinpoint congregation, notify management and trigger company-wide communication automatically. This will help companies adhere to new regulations and protocols and provide employees with greater peace of mind knowing that there are safeguards in place to maintain social distancing with minimal interruption to day-to-day operations.
Though IoT devices are being used in innovative and impactful ways to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak, they are only as effective as the network infrastructure supporting them. Adapting to a pandemic is a marathon, not a sprint.
Organizations must to invest in flexible, cloud-driven network solutions that adapt and scale to changing requirements. As patient care continues to stretch beyond the four walls of the hospital, IT managers are rethinking how to deploy and fortify IoT devices to increase clinical efficiency so that staff can focus on what matters most — ensuring people are healthy and safe.
This article was originally published to IoT Agenda on June 15, 2020.