Smart hospitals through IoT: How technology is changing environmental monitoring in medical facilities

IoT devices in a hospital

In today’s rapidly changing medical environment, hospitals face the ongoing challenge of providing a safe, efficient, and reliable healthcare system. The integration of Internet of Things (IoT) technology for environmental condition monitoring represents a revolutionary step forward, particularly in monitoring critical conditions such as humidity, temperature, energy consumption, air pressure, and more. These parameters are crucial not only for the comfort and safety of staff and patients but also for the optimal functioning of hospital infrastructure, including medical equipment.

Taking a holistic view of IoT solutions in a hospital requires understanding the technological landscape and its capabilities. IoT encompasses a network of interconnected devices that communicate and exchange data wirelessly – through radio waves, most often using LoRa WAN technology. In the context of healthcare, this means embedding sensors and devices throughout the hospital infrastructure to collect, monitor, and analyze data about various environmental conditions. Devices forming such an IoT infrastructure send data to a gateway, which then forwards the formatted data to the user software – in this case, the Appmedica system. This solution brings many benefits, which we discuss in this article.

How IoT Works

IoT-enabled systems provide real-time data, allowing hospital staff to adjust environmental conditions as needed, significantly improving patient care quality. These data are provided by simple temperature and humidity sensors, as well as advanced air quality monitors and energy consumption meters.

For example, smart thermostats and HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) controllers can adjust temperature and humidity levels in real-time, ensuring optimal conditions for patient recuperation and comfort. IoT-supported air quality sensors can measure CO2 levels, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and particulate matter, ensuring clean and safe air for patients and staff. Energy meters equipped with IoT functions can track energy consumption across different hospital departments, identifying areas where energy efficiency can be improved.

These devices not only collect valuable data but also enable a level of automation and control previously unattainable. By integrating these measurements with a centralized management system, hospitals can get a comprehensive view of their environment, enabling more informed decision-making and proactive management of resources and patient care environments.

Example Parameters Measured by IoT Sensors

  1. Monitoring the temperature of refrigerators and freezers to minimize the loss of valuable medications and materials used in hospital procedures. The cost of a sensor is minimal compared to potential losses. Reaction time to a potential failure or employee error (e.g., unintentional shutdown or leaving doors open) is counted in minutes, not hours or days.
  2. Monitoring the condition of ventilation filters in operating rooms – automation of information about the need for filter replacement. Clogged filters require fans to work harder – significantly increasing electricity consumption and wear on ventilation devices. Too frequent inspections also entail significant costs. Here, we give the client the opportunity for service work only when necessary and a good tool for ongoing verification.
  3. Monitoring Temperature and Humidity in treatment rooms and medication preparation areas – better control over whether appropriate parameters are provided for receiving patients or preparing/storing medications, as well as compliance with guidelines from current legal acts.
  4. Monitoring energy consumption and the operation of key devices in the hospital – the hospital is able to better monitor costs associated with energy consumed by the most energy-intensive devices in the hospital. Often, these devices, when turned off in an uncontrolled manner, require reconfiguration/calibration, which incurs above-average and unnecessary costs.
  5. Monitoring Flooding – IT Infrastructure and Archives – allows for as quick a response as possible to all kinds of water-related hazards. Whether in the case of precipitation or, for example, failures of air conditioning systems or hospital plumbing. IoT solutions allow securing one place/specific equipment or zone, e.g., the whole or part of a room.
  6. Monitoring the opening of doors and windows – increases the security of the facility or specific rooms throughout the day or, for example, only during night hours – where an alarm can be immediately triggered in the event of a window or door being opened. Additionally, in the winter or summer months, this allows for significant reduction in heating or air conditioning costs. Often staff or patients open windows despite these systems being on, which can lead to a significant increase in the cost of using the entire building. Especially in the case of high-power devices – often found in medical facilities

The entire system is visualized in a clear form of the Appmedica system interface.

Benefits of IoT Solutions

Improving the safety and comfort of staff and patients

Patient safety and comfort are paramount in healthcare facilities. IoT sensors can continuously monitor temperature and humidity in rooms, ensuring they are maintained within optimal ranges for patient health and comfort. For example, certain conditions, such as respiratory diseases, require specific humidity levels to prevent complications.

Ensuring optimal operation of medical devices

The performance and reliability of medical devices can be sensitive to environmental conditions. For example, high humidity can affect the functioning of electronic equipment, while temperature fluctuations can change the calibration of sensitive instruments. By implementing IoT sensors, hospitals can proactively monitor these conditions, receiving notifications when parameters deviate from ideal ranges. This allows for timely maintenance actions, reducing equipment downtime and extending its lifespan.

Energy consumption and sustainable development

Energy efficiency is an increasing concern for hospitals, given their long operating hours and the energy-intensive nature of medical equipment. IoT technologies play a key role in optimizing energy use by monitoring consumption patterns in real-time. Intelligent IoT systems can automatically adjust lighting, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC), leading to significant energy savings and contributing to sustainable development goals.

Air quality and infection control

Air quality in hospitals is critical, especially in areas such as operating rooms or isolation wards, where the risk of airborne infections is high. IoT sensors can monitor air pressure, airflow intensity, and particulate levels, ensuring proper functioning of ventilation systems. This technology helps maintain a sterile environment and prevent the spread of infections, a key aspect of hospital hygiene and patient safety.

Predictive maintenance and operational efficiency

Data collected by IoT devices can be analyzed to predict when equipment or systems may fail or require maintenance. This approach to predictive maintenance minimizes unexpected downtime, increases operational efficiency, and can lead to cost savings by addressing issues before they turn into costly repairs or replacements.

Challenges and Future Directions

While the benefits of IoT in hospital environmental monitoring are clear, challenges such as data security, privacy concerns, and integrating IoT data with existing hospital management systems must be addressed. Ensuring the security of IoT devices and the data they generate is crucial, given the sensitivity of the hospital environment.

The future of IoT in hospitals looks promising, with technological advancements paving the way for even more innovative applications. From smart beds that monitor patients’ vital signs to intelligent lighting systems that adjust to natural light, the possibilities are limitless. As IoT technology continues to evolve, its integration into hospital environments promises to improve patient care, enhance operational efficiency, and contribute to a sustainable healthcare system.

In summary, the role of IoT in monitoring environmental conditions in hospitals is a testament to the transformative potential of technology in healthcare. By utilizing IoT solutions, hospitals can provide a safer, more comfortable, and efficient environment for both patients and staff, marking a significant step forward in the pursuit of excellence in healthcare provision.

March 20th, 20246 min
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