There are some pretty awesome “combination products” out there – products that were created and marketed separately, but then “combined” with each other to make something new and innovative.
Remember traveling in airports before someone had the genius idea of putting wheels on suitcases? Uh… That was tough back then. Try being an 80-pound kid trying to carry a 30-pound bag through an airport terminal. I’m guessing the person that invented the “rolling suitcase”, got tired of carry his kid’s bags for them!
Putting a phone on a Walkman was pretty revolutionary too – especially when they added the ability to surf the Internet and play video games. Thanks to this combo, I no longer get frustrated waiting in the fast-food drive through line anymore! I can check my email, adjust my fantasy football roster, or work on a Wordbubbles puzzle or two while I wait. This keeps me from getting frustrated with the Suburban with 15 hamburger orders in front on me… Sometimes advancements made by “combining” technologies have very positive, and unexpected consequences resulting in great contributions to society and business.
It just takes someone bold enough, with an imaginative vision to see things others overlook or just choose not to see.
Real-time location services (RTLS) and radio frequency identification (RFID) technology have been utilized for tracking things and people for years now. And not just in healthcare. Many industries are using these technologies to make their businesses more efficient like retail, manufacturing, entertainment, the airlines and several others. Ideas are booming all over the world in how to use RTLS and RFID in new and innovative ways. Healthcare is really starting to get in the game. When they do, it will be a game changer…
The idea is already there [in healthcare] but the targeted product development is not. In my first blog issue last August, I touched on the term LCST, or location and condition-sensing technology. At the time I had not found a good definition for LCST, but apparently I didn’t look hard enough…
Gartner defines LCST as a platform that “provides a flexible, scalable enterprise solution that leverages sensor technologies and wireless networks, such as wireless healthcare asset management, temperature/humidity monitoring, hand sanitization monitoring, newborn location and patient wander monitoring.”
There are use-cases for sensing status attributes about assets being tracked. For example, I would love to know if an infusion pump tracked by RFID is actually being used or not. I’d like to know if the power is simply on, or off, and for how long the power is on per day…
But for this discussion, I want to focus on patient tracking and sensing use-cases. Let me throw out some ideas:
How about a tracking device affixed to a wheel chair that immediately pairs with the patient sitting in it?
- This device should be able to measure speed of the wheel chair.
- It would be great for nurses if the wheel chair could serve as a scale as well. That way, very sick patients [like those at MD Anderson] do not have to get up out of the chair and stand on a scale.
There are EKG devices out there capable of detecting various heart problems as they sit in the waiting room, or grab a bit to eat in the cafeteria. These devices, to be clear, are already “mobile.”
- Let’s add Bluetooth, IR, Ultrasound, or Wi-Fi tracking to it, shall we?
- This would be great for hospitals that still need to monitor the patient for a period of time before the patient is discharged – especially the patients that are more “mobile” than others. This could enable the clinic to patients out of the room and another patient in room sooner.
Some hospitals, like Ochsner Health Systems in New Orleans and surrounding areas, already pull different technologies off the shelf and put them together in order to monitor the patient after they’ve been discharged.
- For some patients, they send a wireless Bluetooth scale, a wrist-cuff blood pressure monitor and a phone application to gather their vitals information and send it back to home base automatically.
- This allows clinicians to monitor patients after they’ve been discharged in order to be more proactive about their care.
- This is an opportunity for a solutions provider to bring the technology together into an integrated package with a software interface capable of feeding specific patient information to the hospital’s EMR.
The wearable wristbands that are on the market today. You know who they are…
- Let’s take all the options found on the wearable products today, like heart rate and step counts, and let’s simply add location data. Vendors can do this today!
- Then let’s push the envelope, and add more capabilities, like monitoring body temperature. How many times do you take your kid’s temperature when they’re sick? A lot, I’d bet. Imagine the details of their vital signs streaming into your mobile phone and even into the pediatrician’s office… Yeah, that would be cool.
Thinking about wearables capable of tracking vital signs. Let’s focus on “vital signs-capable” wearables from here on out. Today, you’ll find in hospitals across the country, patients check into the clinic and the wait, and wait, and wait… They typically wait for the nurse to call them back to have their vital signs checked.
What if the patient received a “wearable” at check-in? They could then be instructed to step on the scale “over there” in the corner [with a location monitor associated with the scale, of course]. The wearable would periodically report blood pressure, heart rate, and temperature back to the hospital’s EMR while in the waiting room – before the patient is even called back for medication reconciliation by the nurse. This would save gobs of time, in my opinion.
What about those interruptions in the middle of night that nurses have to make – waking up the patient only to check their vital signs? These devices could constantly be monitoring the patient (even while asleep) eliminating the need to interrupt much needed rest.
I realize that some of these ideas are still in the realm of “Star Trek” stuff, but we’re not that far off people… I’m not an engineer, but there are some very smart engineers out there capable of designing the technology that I’ve thrown out for discussion. Hopefully, they are already in the process. Healthcare needs this technology. They may not know it yet, but they do.
I’d like to challenge R&D departments out there reading this blog to think about this technology very seriously. Let’s put wheels on suitcases and change basic healthcare workflows while improving the patient experience for everyone.
Anyone doing this already?