In the last few years, the long-term care sector has come under immense pressure, first from COVID and now from staffing shortages.
The shortage also puts extreme pressure on existing staff to work overtime, making them more susceptible to burnout. The dire situation has led to 58% of nursing homes placing limits on new admissions. Patients are either being turned away, or they’re not getting the level of care they need.
Fortunately, recent developments in IoT (Internet of Things) technology could help alleviate the pressure that many nursing homes are feeling right now. While some of these IoT technologies have been around for a while, they are only now starting to find their way into the long-term care sector, where there is now a critical need.
Location-based services as part of IoT
In short, IoT refers to any system of interrelated devices that connect and exchange data over the Internet or other communications networks. These interconnected devices can range from everyday smartphones and desktop computers to medical wearables and motion sensors. Basically, anything that can be embedded with sensors or actuators and connected to a smart device can be part of an IoT network.
In the long-term care sector, IoT networks can serve many purposes, such as improving communication between staff members, restricting access to specific areas, and gathering data on patient care. But perhaps the biggest benefit IoT can bring to the table is location tracking.
Location-based services refer to determining, monitoring and recording the real-time location of objects or people in a workspace. IoT does this through a network of sender devices, often wearable tags, and locators that record the position of each tag. Often referred to as Real-Time Locating Systems (RTLS), these tracking systems come in many forms, some far more real-time and accurate than others.
RTLS systems are already being deployed in industries as diverse as manufacturing, retail and healthcare, where they are helping to eliminate bottlenecks, track the movement of assets, and provide improved safety measures.
The benefits of location-based IoT in long-term care
IoT location services can provide a lot of benefits to overstretched and understaffed nursing homes.
1. Equipment and inventory tracking
In nursing homes, medical devices can often get misplaced, leading to staff wasting a lot of time looking for them when they could be doing more important things. Fitting a traceable tag to each medical device allows staff to immediately locate a misplaced device with a minimum of fuss.
Medicines can also be tracked to prevent them being misplaced, lost or stolen, something that is especially important for cold-storage medicines, which can spoil in a short time if not returned to storage.
2. Patient tracking for improved safety
The health and safety of patients is the number one priority of every nursing home. Even so, this can be difficult to achieve with an exhausted and overworked team, especially when it comes to patients with neurological conditions such as dementia that can cause them to wander off and injure themselves or others.
With IoT, patients can wear traceable bracelets, so staff can monitor their location and quickly find them if they wander off. Alerts can also be set to go off if a patient tries to enter a restricted area or walk out the front door.
3. Improved workflow and efficiency
Doctors, nurses and other staff members can also carry tags to help management know their location in the building at any time. This saves time for everyone and contributes to a more efficient work environment. Visitors can also be given tags to monitor their movements and keep them out of restricted areas.
In addition, managers can monitor the real-time location of everyone in the building throughout the day, which can provide vital information on which time periods are the busiest, which tasks take the longest, and how much individual care each patient is getting. With this information, facilities can design more efficient workflows that benefit everyone in the long run.
Nursing homes and other long-term care centers are unlikely to overcome their staffing issues in the near future. In fact, the problem is likely to grow worse due to an aging population, budget cuts and an increasingly burnt-out workforce.
IoT location tracking won’t solve all your staffing problems, but it will certainly reduce the workload on staff while also contributing to a safer and less stressful environment for everyone.
The opinions expressed in McKnight’s Long-Term Care News guest submissions are the author’s and are not necessarily those of McKnight’s Long-Term Care News or its editors.
This article was originally published here
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