The COVID-19 pandemic shifted the focus of healthcare IoT toward telehealth. It’s true that connected devices are creating powerful new ways to care for patients remotely; wearable health monitors are just one high-profile example.
But IoT isn’t just for distance medicine. In a post-lockdown world, healthcare IoT is also streamlining operations for hospitals, clinics, and other in-person care facilities. One of the most effective ways to reap the benefits of smart healthcare—including lower costs, better patient outcomes, and less stress on staff—is to deploy a fleet of IoT location tags.
These tags are available as wearables, supporting a variety of use cases for patient care and staff support. Or you can attach tags to medical equipment to create an automated asset tracking system.
Location tags offer a cost-effective way to move toward smart healthcare modalities. They don’t require you to redesign your whole IT or OT tech stacks. In short, location tags offer a great entry point for healthcare IoT. Most importantly, this IoT technology can provide remarkable benefits for patients and the providers that care for them.
In this article, we’ll answer three key questions:
- What are location tags?
- How do location tags support in-person medical care?
- Why should healthcare providers deploy location tags?
Here’s your introduction to smart healthcare, courtesy of IoT location tags and the systems they support.
What: Introducing Location Tags for Smart Healthcare
A location tag or location wearable is a radio-enabled device that transmits its location in space to a wireless gateway. (Gateways, in turn, can relay data to cloud platforms and, eventually, user interfaces.)
Many location tags include additional functionality: accelerometers track movements, alert buttons send notifications, and sensors track conditions like temperature or humidity. For this introduction, however, we’ll stick to the basic feature of a location tag, which is sending real-time data on where the tag is located.
Location tags and their gateways may use any number of wireless technologies to share data: WiFi, cellular, LPWAN, etc. For most healthcare facilities, however, Bluetooth Low Energy provides the ideal form of connectivity for location tags.
This connectivity technology was designed to preserve battery life, reducing the need for charging or swapping batteries to an absolute minimum. Indoor tracking systems that use Bluetooth Low Energy are also remarkably accurate, pinpointing tags within a meter or two. These systems just require a fleet of location tags (and/or wearables) and gateways to deploy.
Regardless of the connectivity that connects them, healthcare location tags provide real-time visibility into asset or staff locations. How exactly does that help? Here are just a few common use cases for location tags in the healthcare industry.
How: 3 Use Cases for IoT Location Tags in Healthcare
Location tracking IoT can improve operation for any healthcare facility, whether you operate a hospital, an assisted living center, or a specialist medical office. Use a fleet of location tags for the following healthcare tasks:
- Locating patients to ensure their safety. A combination of wearable location trackers and geo-fencing technology alerts staff when patients enter or exit pre-set areas, providing a valuable safety tool for behavioral health facilities or memory care units. And when a patient presses an emergency button, location trackers tell staff exactly where they are, reducing response times when every second counts.
- Optimizing staffing and provider workflows. Patients aren’t the only ones who benefit from wearable location trackers. Staff location data reveals patterns in daily workflows, helping you to optimize staffing levels and distribution. Scheduling managers can spend less time on manual work, while real-time positioning can help staff respond to emergencies faster.
- Managing supplies and equipment. A 2023 survey of nurses revealed that these frontline healthcare providers lose nearly 45 minutes per shift searching for things. Asset tracking tags allow nurses to spend that time on direct patient care instead. With IoT tracking tags on medical equipment and supplies, you can reduce losses while ensuring quick access.
Of course, these examples are far from comprehensive—and when you add condition monitoring and response equipment to location tracking devices, the possibilities of smart healthcare expand significantly.
Next, we’ll look at some of the clear advantages location tags bring to healthcare facilities.
Why: Exploring the Benefits of Healthcare Location Tags
Even putting aside monitoring and notification features, location tags help healthcare providers—and their patients—in a variety of ways. Here are just a few of the benefits:
- Lower costs for patients and providers alike. Location tags automate many processes that could otherwise only be completed manually, from tracking down supplies to checking patients in and out. These time savings lead to cost savings, helping to bring down prices across the board.
- Faster response times. In a medical emergency, every second counts. With IoT, staff can locate patients wherever they are. They can access essential equipment without delay. And managers can call on nearby providers for the fastest possible response.
- Fewer asset losses. These IoT tags provide location data for valuable drugs and medical equipment, reducing the risk of theft or misplacement.
- Reduced data errors. Location tags can help to automate data collection for key details, such as patients checking in and out of the facility. That can reduce error rates associated with manual data entry, improving decision-making and cutting waste.
- More efficient staff utilization. Location tracking systems provide visibility into staffing and patient requests. This data helps you make data-backed staffing decisions, so you can post staff at the time and places that patients need them.
Studies support the use of IoT in healthcare to achieve cost savings, better treatment outcomes, fewer errors, and more satisfied patients. That makes perfect sense once you know what location tags are; how they help; and why medical providers need them. In short, location tags offer a low-barrier way to start delivering these benefits to the patients you serve today.